Thanksgiving is a time for family and friends to get together around the dinner table, feasting on turkey, cranberry sauce, and stuffing. As part of the celebration, people enjoy wine with dinner, or having beer while watching football. It may also be a time when people return to the town where they grew up, and a chance to get together with old friends. All of these factors also lead to Thanksgiving being a peak season for arrests and accidents involving driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Thanksgiving is one of the deadliest days of the year for American drivers, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Statistics from 1998 to 2008 show that nationwide, there was an average of 572 deaths each year over the Thanksgiving holiday; the deadliest four-day period for drivers and passengers.
There are a number of factors which impact the number of drunk drivers and accidents on the road. This includes Thanksgiving being one of the busiest travel times of the year. According to AAA, an estimated 46 million Americans would drive 50 or more miles from home during the Thanksgiving weekend. With the cost of gas lower than it has been in recent years, this number may further increase for 2015.
Another factor that leads to increased impaired driving is the phenomenon known as Blackout Wednesday. The night before Thanksgiving Day, many people take the travel opportunity to be back in town with friends and family they haven't seen in awhile. They may go out to enjoy drinks at a local bar, and find themselves on the road home after having had one too many. Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) has noted that while the number of traffic deaths involving drunk drivers have actually fell over the years, they have noticed increased impaired driving over the Thanksgiving holiday.
There has recently been a positive trend here in California. According to the California Highway Patrol (CHP), there has been a decrease statewide in the number of Thanksgiving drunk driving arrests over previous years. CHP officers arrested 840 drivers on suspicion of DUI in 2012, 63 people fewer than in 2011. From 2013 to 2014, the number of DUI arrests fell further statewide over Thanksgiving, from 724 to 594.
With support from the NHTSA, many law enforcement agencies will be involved in increasing DUI enforcement over Thanksgiving. This includes DUI sobriety checkpoints, increased officer patrols, and raising public awareness of drunk driving and the severe penalties involved. Even a first time DUI can result in a 6-month driver's license suspension, three years of probation, DUI school, and in Alameda County, an ignition interlock device on your car. All of this can end up costing thousands of dollars, and is a sure way to ruin the holiday weekend.
Stay safe this Thanksgiving holiday, and be sure to plan ahead. If you plan on drinking, take a bus, a cab, designated a sober driver, or allow for plenty of time to sober up before driving. If you do end up under arrest, contact a DUI lawyer who has dedicated their legal career to defending people charged with a DUI in the East Bay. With over 30 years of experience, Lynn Gorelick understands how a DUI conviction can affect your future, and how to fight to keep a conviction off your record. If you are facing a DUI, contact the local East Bay DUI defense attorney who understands that you do not have to plead guilty just because you were arrested.