Hamilton, NJ –– As everyone knows, the day after Thanksgiving Day is called “Black Friday.” It is the busiest retail shopping day of the year. Fewer people realize, however, that the day before Thanksgiving Day is dubbed “Blackout Wednesday” or “Drinksgiving” in some circles. Those are more than clever “buzz words.” Thanksgiving Eve is unofficially called one of the busiest days of the year for high levels of alcohol consumption or for binge drinking by college students who are home for the holiday.

It is a particularly bad day for alcohol-related or drug-related fatal highway crashes, law enforcement officials across the nation confirm. Thanksgiving Eve is also one of the “biggest bar nights of the year,” with many bars staging “Fall Crawl” and “Gobble Wobble” for pre-Thanksgiving partiers.

“While Thanksgiving Day is a time to share meals with our loved ones, the eve of Thanksgiving is one of the most dangerous times for overindulgence in alcohol – not food,” says Tracy Noble, spokesperson for AAA Mid-Atlantic.  “While we fear and detest drunk drivers, a survey by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety revealed that far too many aren’t practicing what they preach. There is a big disconnect in our actions and words,” says Noble. More than one in eight motorists (13 percent) report driving when their alcohol level might have been near or over the legal limit within the past 12 months. About 9 percent of drivers report doing this more than once over the past year.

Traffic deaths around Thanksgiving weekend, including “Blackout Wednesday” and “Black Friday,” account for “more than 400 traffic deaths each year.” More cars on the road for the holidays mean more crashes warns AAA Mid-Atlantic. This year, AAA projects that 43.5 million people are traveling by car to Grandma’s house or a favorite vacation spot to celebrate Thanksgiving with family or friends. That’s 800,000 more people traveling by automobile than last Thanksgiving. That tally includes over one million New Jerseyans.  

Although Thanksgiving Day is one of the most family-oriented holidays on the calendar, it is also one of the worst times of the year for automobile crashes caused by deer on roadways, inclement weather conditions, and driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs. The use of marijuana and prescription drugs are emerging as factors in highway safety during the holiday, as well.  That’s a recipe for disaster and death on the highways during the busy Thanksgiving travel period, warns AAA Mid-Atlantic.

With 89 percent of New Jersey holiday travelers driving to their destinations, everyone on the road must be extra diligent about the dangers of impaired driving.

Law enforcement officials and traffic safety advocates cite three over-arching factors in the spike in DUI/DWI-related traffic crashes during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend:

  • Heavy traffic. Thanksgiving Day is actually a heavier long-distance travel day than Wednesday.
  • The domino effect of holiday revelry and bar crawls when college students are home for the holiday.
  • During the holidays, 45 people are killed by intoxicated motorists a day, compared to 28 each day.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 5,500 people died in car crashes from 2000 to 2009 over the Thanksgiving holiday. Roughly “a third of these deaths were attributed to drunken driving, resulting in the highest number of drunk driving accidents of any holiday.” Thanksgiving Day was the holiday period in 2014 with “the most motor vehicle deaths (403),” cautions the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.).

AAA recommends the following to help keep you safe this Thanksgiving holiday:

  • Consider leaving earlier or later to avoid heavy traffic, if possible.
  • Map your route in advance and be prepared for busy roads during the most popular times of the year.
  • Never let friends drive if they have had too much alcohol to drink.
  • Designate a safe and sober driver before the party begins. If you don’t have a designated driver, plan to call a cab or a ride share, or use public transportation.

AAA works year-round to educate the public on the dangers of impaired driving in an effort to reduce traffic-related crashes and injuries.