DUIs, binge drinking plague Thanksgiving weekend

November 17, 2016, DENVER—New data from 500,000 DUI offenders tested 24/7 for drinking shows that violations among the monitored group are 38 percent higher than average on Turkey Day, and see a 31 percent jump during the long Thanksgiving weekend.

Compiled by Denver-based Alcohol Monitoring Systems (AMS), the data looks at the behaviors of high-risk, repeat drunk-driving defendants who were monitored 24/7 for alcohol with transdermal ankle bracelets. According to AMS spokesperson Kathleen Brown, the findings illustrate how closely drinking is tied to Thanksgiving.

“The people we monitor have been court-ordered not to drink, know they’ll get caught, and know there will be consequences, including jail time,” says Brown. “So you can imagine the rate of drinking for those who aren’t being monitored.” Brown notes that extra time off work, family celebrations, and holiday-related stress can all lead people to drink more than usual during the holiday.

  • Thanksgiving Eve nicknamed “Blackout Wednesday”

Alcohol problems are expected to start increasing Thanksgiving Eve, known as “Blackout Wednesday” or “Drinksgiving” in many cities. “We work with agencies around the country,” Brown notes, “and many of them, particularly in urban areas, say that drunk driving spikes as much on Thanksgiving Eve as on better known ‘drinking’ holidays.”

Bars in some areas even report seeing more business on Thanksgiving Eve than St. Patrick’s Day or New Year’s. It has also become a particularly high-risk drinking day for college students. AMS reports that alcohol violations among the offenders they monitor jump 34 percent on Blackout Wednesday.

  • Heavy traffic and increased drunk driving expected

The Thanksgiving holiday is especially dangerous because of the surge in holiday travelers and drunk driving. AAA predicts that more than 43 million Americans will travel by car for Thanksgiving this year, while in 2014 more than a third of all traffic fatalities during the long holiday weekend were tied to an alcohol-impaired driver. Law enforcement in many areas will increase DUI/TZD patrols during the holiday weekend.

  • Resources for a safe and sober holiday season

AMS has released its 2016 Drinking and DUIs During the Holidays Infographic to call attention to the dangers of binge drinking and DUIs between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. In addition, for 2016 AMS has launched a Sober Days for the Holidays Resource Center with tips for getting through the holidays without alcohol, social graphics to drive awareness, and links to additional drinking and driving safety resources.

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