For most Americans, the month of November is synonymous with Thanksgiving. It’s the time of the year when many are anxiously anticipating spending time with family over grand dinner spreads until hunger and hearts are satisfied. While Thanksgiving is undoubtedly joyous for families in North Carolina, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) cites the weekend as the most traveled period of the year.
An overwhelming majority of employees are off for the holiday, making it an ideal opportunity to travel home and reconnect with old friends not seen for a while. Festive atmospheres abound, and with them often follows social drinking. Carefree fun can turn into disaster if loved ones drive after drinking. It is important to prepare and plan ahead to ensure safety remains a priority for everyone during the Thanksgiving holiday.
The Facts About DUI/DWI
No one gets behind the wheel of a car expecting much beyond arriving safely to their destination. Unfortunately, driving after consuming alcohol or any other substance that clouds your senses could create a very different outcome. Driving While Impaired (DWI), considered the same as Driving Under the Influence (DUI) in North Carolina, specifically refers to alcohol and drugs. A driver is considered driving while impaired if he or she is driving a vehicle on a public highway or public vehicular area (i) while under the influence of an impairing substance, or (ii) with an alcohol concentration of .08 or more at a relevant time after driving. (G.S. § 20-138.1)
DWI offenses carry a hefty legal and social consequence in North Carolina; there is a $10,000 maximum fine for offenders. Individuals charged with DWI face the possibility of going to jail and having arrest photos taken and published. Extended court wait periods and criminal offense charges are often consequences as well.
Approximately a third of all traffic related deaths in the United States involve a drunk driver. From 2003 to 2012 a total of 4,102 people lost their lives due to drunk driving accidents. In 2012, 1.4 percent of people in North Carolina reported driving after consuming too much alcohol. This is a staggering statistic when you consider that operating a vehicle after drinking can dramatically and negatively alter the course of your life, while potentially ending someone else’s.
The Dangers of Black Wednesday
Thanksgiving Eve, also known as Black Wednesday, is considered the beginning of the holiday season. Unfortunately, as members of our law enforcement community, EMTs and DWI lawyers know, Black Wednesday is also considered the beginning of the holiday drinking period. In many places in the country, Black Wednesday has become a bigger drinking occasion than New Year’s Eve or St. Patrick’s Day, and it is one of the top drunk-driving nights of the year. This is especially significant in urban and college demographics.
During the 2014 Thanksgiving holiday weekend, 341 passenger vehicle occupants were killed in traffic crashes across the nation. While a multitude of factors can be attributed to traffic crashes, 35 percent of highway deaths related to alcohol happen during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, beginning with Black Wednesday.
This day is particularly deadly for a number of reasons. Because Thanksgiving is primarily spent with family, the Wednesday before has become an iconic day for socializing in bars and establishments that sell alcohol. People often overestimate their own sobriety after a fun night with friends, attempt to drive home and cause havoc on the road and in the lives of innocent victims.
Travel Safety Tips
Black Wednesday doesn’t have to be a day with tragic memories attached to it. Drinking and driving can be completely preventable with a few helpful tips and strategies.
- You can always elect to refrain from drinking that night/day. Sometimes recreation seems so closely connected to drinking that people forget it isn’t always necessary at all.
- Opt to use a ride-sharing or driver-for-hire (taxi) service. Several of these companies are easily accessible at all times of the day and night, and many even offer user-friendly phone apps.
- Finalize plans early and select a friend in the group to be the designated driver who should agree to not drink that night.
- Use the buddy system. Attend parties with a friend and agree to hold each other accountable. Peer pressure can work in a positive way if it means taking someone’s keys when they are visibly inebriated.
- Stay safe, not sorry. You don’t have to “feel drunk/tipsy” to be intoxicated. It will always prove prudent to choose safety over the risk of DWI.
- Call a friend or family member for help. Waking someone up late at night or in the early hours of the morning may cause an argument but that is a far better outcome than your arrest or causing serious injury or death to a friend or innocent stranger.
Thanksgiving conjures up thoughts of fun with family and delicious meals. Make plans now to remain safe and sober this holiday season.