NHTSA: Over 830 People Died in Drunk Driver Crashes During Thanksgiving Holiday Period 2017-2021

With nicknames like “Blackout Wednesday” and “Drinksgiving,” the night before Thanksgiving has developed a reputation for heavy alcohol consumption and binge drinking. Unfortunately, that trend isn’t isolated to the evening before the holiday.

Unusually heavy traffic and the effects of holiday revelry and bar crawls are recognized as the biggest culprits behind the increase in drunk driving crashes during the Thanksgiving holiday period. In addition to alcohol, use of illegal drugs, prescription medications and over-the-counter medications can impair driving.

Heavy consumption of alcohol and drugs is prevalent throughout the holiday weekend, leading to an increased risk of impaired driving crashes on already-crowded roadways.

“With more than 49 million Americans projected to be on the roadways during the long holiday weekend, those choosing to drive impaired are not only endangering themselves, but millions of others as well,” says Tracy Noble, spokesperson for AAA Club Alliance.

More than 830 people died nationwide in crashes involving a drunk driver over the Thanksgiving holiday period ― Wednesday through Sunday ― from 2017 to 2021, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Drivers involved in fatal crashes during nighttime hours are four times as likely to be impaired compared to those involved in daytime fatal crashes.

Impaired driving also endangers the lives of law enforcement, tow truck operators, emergency response teams and others working at the side of the road.

“It’s never OK to get behind the wheel of a vehicle when you are buzzed, drunk or otherwise impaired,” Noble added. “The risk of injury or death for yourself, passengers and others on the roadway is not worth it, especially when there are options for you to get home safely. AAA wants everyone to enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday with their friends and family, and not have to deal with the horrific devastation caused by impaired driving.”

AAA, and other traffic safety partners, work year-round to educate the public on the dangers of impaired driving in an effort to reduce traffic-related crashes and injuries. There are a number of steps motorists and others can take this Thanksgiving holiday to prevent impaired driving from turning the holiday into tragedy:

  • Remember that buzzed driving is drunk driving. Don’t risk it.
  • Never let friends or family drive if they are impaired.
  • Always buckle up. It offers your best chance of survival in a fatal crash.
  • If you suspect that another motorist is impaired, contact law enforcement.
  • Designate a safe and sober driver or download a ride-share app before the celebrating begins.
  • If you don’t have a designated driver, plan to call a cab or a ride-share service or use public transportation.
  • If you’re hosting a holiday party, offer festive non-alcoholic drink options for your guests and those serving as designated drivers.
  • Get sober before getting behind the wheel. Only TIME works―not coffee nor cold showers. It takes about 1 hour to burn off an average drink. Five ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer or 1½ ounces of liquor all contain about the same amount of alcohol.

“With so many options making it easy to avoid driving after drinking, it doesn’t make sense to take that chance,” Noble reminded. “Choose a designated driver or call a ride-share service and get home safely.”

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  1. Public transportation and ride sharing are not good alternatives to driving. They are usually very expensive or take much longer, and many do not even consider them as options because of how inadequate they are.

    We need better alternatives to driving before we can realistically expect people to use them. This is victim blaming at its finest, framing the situation in a way that removes responsibility from the system.

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