Blackout Wednesday and Impaired Driving: How to Prevent a DUI Charge this Holiday Season

As the holidays approach, we often get the chance to spend time with family, reconnect with old friends, and travel home to celebrate the joys of the season. Thanksgiving is this week and the Christmas holiday is fast approaching as well. There is is a lot too look forward to in the coming weeks, but it may not all be celebrations and joy.

With the onset of the holiday season comes the inevitable increase in the number of drivers out on the roadways. Some of the busiest travel days occur during the winter holiday season, one of the biggest being around Thanksgiving. Also, many people add alcohol to their holiday celebrations, and some tend to overindulge before getting behind the wheel.

The combination of more drivers on the roadways and more people consuming alcohol during the holiday season can potentially set up a dangerous situation. More accidents occur during this time of year and more DUI’s are charged too. So as a driver, what should you look out for and what should you be aware of as we head into the holiday season?

In this post, we delve into the growth of one of the busiest drinking nights of the year known as Blackout Wednesday and also share some tips on how to avoid a DUI charge this holiday season. If you plan to be a driver out on the roads in the next few months, we recommend reading on to gain some insight on what to expect.

Blackout Wednesday – What is it and why should I be concerned?

In the last five years or so the Wednesday night just before Thanksgiving has come to be known as an unofficial pre-Thanksgiving holiday for many. You may hear it called Blackout Wednesday. The name stems from the fact that this night tends to be one of the busiest nights of the year in bars across the country.

On this particular day, alcohol sales spike significantly across the board. According to data analyzed by Upserve, a restaurant management platform, overall beer sales increased by 270% and liquor sales increased by 114% just last year. So what causes the spike in sales?

There are many factors that contribute to the increase in alcohol sales, but it is likely due to the number of large groups that venture out to the bars on that night. If you think about it, nearly all Americans have Thursday off for the Thanksgiving holiday, and if you are in charge of cooking the next day, you probably don’t want to try and entertain the night before as well.

Pair that with the fact that a lot of people come home for the holidays, and you get the perfect recipe for an evening out to grab a few drinks with friends or family that you don’t get to see on a regular basis and if you’re worried about a hangover the next day, at least a Thanksgiving feast makes for a good remedy.

Hey, it sounds like having a night out to relax with a few drinks doesn’t sound like a bad idea before heading into the Thanksgiving holiday. So, what is the big deal? Why should you be worried about Blackout Wednesday when it just sounds like a lot of fun?

This biggest reason to be concerned with the increasing popularity of Blackout Wednesday is the increase in drinking and driving that comes with it. The days just before Thanksgiving are considered to be some of the busiest travel days of the year. Just last year, over 43.5 million Americans took a road trip for Thanksgiving and 48.7 million Americans traveled ventured more than 50 miles from home during that time.

With more drivers on the roads comes an inherent risk for more accidents and traffic problems simply due to the increased number of vehicles. However, when you combine the higher number of vehicles out on the road with the increased amount of alcohol consumption during the holidays, it can lead to some serious consequences.

More than 40% of traffic-related deaths during the holidays are a result of drunk drivers. Of that 40%, more than a third occur around the Thanksgiving holiday. There is a marked increase in drunk driving accidents during December around the Christmas and New Year’s holidays as well. The number of DUI-related traffic stops often increases by more than 30% on Christmas Eve and more than 40% of traffic accidents on New Year’s Eve are the result of drinking and driving.

With all of the potential risks of an accident or DUI charge, you may be thinking that it would be best to just stay home for the holidays and not go out at all. While that is one way to decrease your risk, that may not be the most practical choice for some folks. If you are one of those people that would have a hard time just staying home for the holidays and not consuming alcohol at all, consider some of the tips listed below to keep your risk for a possible DUI charge to a minimum.

Driving on Blackout Wednesday and During the Holiday Season: What can I do to prevent a DUI charge?

1) Understand how alcohol affects you and plan accordingly

Many do not realize that a person’s decision-making abilities and driving-related skills can already be diminished even if they are not yet showing typical signs of intoxication. Many factors determine the effect alcohol has on a person’s body and their behavior. These can include the person’s weight, hydration level, when they last ate, and their overall tolerance to alcohol.

 

People that don’t drink often and have a lower tolerance for alcohol are more likely to participate in social gatherings that involve drinking around the holidays compared to other times of the year. Also, those that do drink often are more likely to consume even higher amounts of alcohol than they usually do because of the increased number of parties and social gatherings. It’s fairly simple — people tend to drink more when they are around others that are drinking too.

That is why it is so important to understand how alcohol affects your body specifically. It takes time for your body to metabolize and process alcohol but it gets absorbed into your bloodstream within minutes of you taking a sip. For most, you start to feel the effects of alcohol within 5 to 20 minutes of consuming it, but your Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) typically peaks between 45 to 90 minutes after you’ve had a drink.

A person’s body can only process so much alcohol at one time. How much your body can effectively process in a given amount of time differs for each person, but generally, if you are consuming more than one drink per hour your body will have a hard time keeping up. Drinking more alcohol than your body can process at one time is what causes the symptoms of impairment.

2) Don’t rely on quick fixes to sober you up

Many people believe they can control how quickly their body “sobers up” after consuming alcohol. For example, a common myth is that drinking coffee will help because caffeine will sober you up. The problem is that caffeine may help with the drowsiness caused by alcohol consumption, but it won’t help your body process and remove the alcohol in your system any faster. The body needs sufficient time to metabolize alcohol and break it down before returning to normal.

Even after you stop drinking, the alcohol you consumed will continue to affect your brain and body for several hours or more. Biologically speaking, alcohol can be detected in your body for even long after you stop drinking. So, even if it’s been several hours since you last had a drink, you could potentially still be charged with a DUI if you get pulled over. Alcohol can be detected using either a breathalyzer or blood test even several hours after consumption.

3) Plan and arrange for a ride home

You best bet to prevent a DUI charge is to plan and arrange a ride for yourself and/or others so you don’t get behind the wheel at all when you have been drinking. With the current rise in popularity of services like Uber and Lyft, there are many options available to those that want to go out and have a few drinks. Although using these services at popular times may be more expensive than driving yourself home, it is definitely the safer choice.

You could also arrange for a designated driver (DD) ahead of time. Perhaps there is someone that will be out with you that doesn’t plan to drink or is willing to refrain from alcohol for the night so he/she can be the driver. This can be a great option as well. However, always make sure that your designated driver is committed to the task. It is never a good idea to simply choose the person that is the “least drunk” that night to drive home.

It is likely that the person you think is the “least drunk” is still well past the point of impairment and could cause a risk to you and others if he/she gets behind the wheel. The coordination needed for driving is compromised long before the signs of intoxication or “being drunk” are even visible. A person’s reaction time is slowed, and the sedative effects of alcohol can increase the risk of nodding off behind the wheel even after just one drink! Plan ahead and decide who your DD is going to be before you go out to avoid a making a poor choice later.

Another thing to consider when choosing whether or not to get an Uber/Lyft or drive home yourself is the emphasis patrols that get added for law enforcement across the state and across the country. In the state of Washington, sobriety checkpoints are not allowed; however, that does not mean that law enforcement agencies do not have other means to catch drunk drivers. Because they know that this time of year elicits a greater number or drunk driving incidents, they are specifically trained to be on the lookout for any signs of impairment.

The Bottom Line…

We all want to celebrate during the holidays and enjoy the time being around family and friends, but if you aren’t careful, you could be faced with a DUI charge or be the cause of an accident. Remember that Blackout Wednesday — the night before Thanksgiving — is the busiest night of drinking across the whole year, even bigger than New Year’s Eve and St. Patrick’s Day in some areas.

If you plan to go out tonight (or any other night during the holiday season) plan ahead for a ride home and be cautious when consuming alcohol. Make sure you understand that every person’s body reacts and processes alcohol differently. There is no quick fix to sober you up once you consume too much alcohol and even after one drink you could be too impaired to operate a motor vehicle safely.

Even if you aren’t planning to go to the bars on Blackout Wednesday or during the holiday season, keep in mind that there will likely be more impaired drivers on the roads. During the Thanksgiving holiday and the following months, there will be an increased number of travelers on the roads. Stay alert and call your local law enforcement agency if you suspect a drunk driver. It is always better to be safe than sorry.

Even though the holiday season can be joyful and fun, it can also be a worrisome time of year for some. The good news is, Garguile Law, PLLC is always here to help. Remember that if you do get charged with a DUI or your receive a traffic ticket in Tacoma or the surrounding areas you can give us a call right away. We have a great deal of experience handling both DUI’s and traffic infractions in multiple courts all across the state of Washington. It is more than likely that we can help you with any charges you receive. So, if something happens and you need assistance with a traffic matter this holiday season don’t hesitate to contact us.

From all of us here at Garguile Law, PLLC we wish you a Happy Thanksgiving and holiday season!
References: