With enough time for preparation, you can have a safe Thanksgiving on the road.  -  Photo: Canva

With enough time for preparation, you can have a safe Thanksgiving on the road.

Photo: Canva

During this Thanksgiving weekend, millions will hit our nation's roads, eager to spend time with family and friends. It’s one of the busiest travel times of the year. What does this mean for fleet drivers who are on the clock during the holidays?

For one, it means sharing the road with other motorists who are in a rush to get to their families for Thanksgiving. Traveling on the road during the holidays is not always a bad experience.

With enough time for preparation, you can have a safe Thanksgiving on the road. Celebrations start the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, alluding to the new nickname “Blackout Wednesday”, also known as “Drinksgiving”.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the U.S. Department of Transportation have created several ad campaigns, fact sheets with talking points, press releases, and formatted social media texts, that can be copied, pasted, and posted.

Thanksgiving - Impaired Driving: November 22-26, 2023

During the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, NHTSA is working diligently to remind drivers that Buzzed Driving Is Drunk Driving. Their goal is to assist traffic safety advocates and to educate the public on the dangers and consequences of impaired driving. Read the statistics below and help spread their lifesaving message:

  • 190 people died in alcohol-impaired driving crashes during the Thanksgiving holiday period in 2021. (6 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 24 through 5:59 a.m. Monday, Nov. 29). From 2017- 2021, 832 people died in alcohol-impaired driving crashes during the entire Thanksgiving holiday period (6 p.m. the Wednesday before Thanksgiving through 5:59 a.m. the Monday after Thanksgiving).
  • During the 2021 Thanksgiving holiday period, more than four times as many drivers involved in fatal crashes were alcohol-impaired during nighttime hours than during the day. During this same period, male drivers were more likely than females to be alcohol-impaired and involved in a fatal crash, with males accounting for more than three-quarters of the alcohol-impaired drivers.
  • In 2021 there were 13,384 fatalities in alcohol-impaired motor vehicle traffic crashes, accounting for 31% of all traffic fatalities in the U.S. that year.
  • Fatalities in alcohol-impaired-driving crashes increased by 14% (11,718 to 13,384 fatalities) from 2020 to 2021 and increased by 31% (10,196 to 13,384 fatalities) from 2019 to 2021.
  • Nationally, it is illegal to drive with a BAC of .08 g/dL or higher, except in Utah, where the limit is .05 g/dL.
  • Although it’s illegal to drive when impaired by alcohol, in 2021, one person was killed every 39 minutes in a drunk-driving crash on our nation’s roads.
  • The rate of alcohol impairment among drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2021 was 2.8 times higher at night than during the day.

Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over

Drunk driving endangers those behind the wheel, their passengers, and other people on the road. Law enforcement partners know how to spot an impaired driver and will not hesitate to pull them over.

If you’re going to drink, plan for a sober ride. Several options are available to impaired drivers to help them get home safely. These include designating a sober driver, scheduling a taxi or rideshare service, or utilizing the sober ride program offered by their community.

The cost of a ride home is a small price to pay compared to the financial and legal consequences of a DUI or DWI, which can amount to thousands of dollars.

While the focus of the Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign initiative is to deter impaired driving, officers will also issue citations and make arrests during traffic stops for the following: speed, operating without a license, traffic sign/traffic light violations, seat belt violations, drug arrests, and criminal arrests.

The Indiana State Police will be stepping up patrols this Thanksgiving, to help curb alcohol and drug-impaired driving with a campaign of their own: Going out Tonight? So Are We...

The goal of increased law enforcement efforts during the holiday is not just to arrest impaired drivers. Their mission is to enhance public safety and prevent needless tragedies by discouraging people from making the dangerous decision to get behind the wheel while intoxicated.

If you have a friend who is about to drink and drive, step in. Take the keys away and help them get home safely. Motorists are encouraged to call 911 if they encounter an impaired or unsafe driver on the road.

Drinksgiving

Do you know about Drinksgiving? The Wednesday before Thanksgiving is one of the biggest bar nights of the year. It is understandable why this particular day before a holiday is a big night for bars. The majority of Americans have the day off on Thanksgiving.

Many return to their hometowns to visit families, and for college students it's often the first time they're back in town since leaving for campus. The temptation to see old friends, attend a reunion, or just to gather, is high.

The term Blackout Wednesday comes from the blackouts or memory loss, that can result from binge drinking, defined as four or more drinks in succession for women and five or more drinks in succession for men.

How Alcohol Affects Driving Ability

No matter how often you consume alcohol, even one drink can affect your driving ability; still, many drivers don't understand the impacts that an increasing BAC can have. Despite the legal limit in most states being 0.08, research shows that having a BAC at even 0.02 can affect attention and judgment. The NHTSA outlines the effects as such:

  • .02 BAC - some loss of judgment, a decline in visual functions (like tracking a moving target), and decreased ability to multitask.
  • .05 BAC - reduced coordination, difficulty steering, and lowered alertness, causing a reduced emergency response.
  • .08 BAC - short-term memory loss, poor muscle coordination, impaired perception, and reduced information processing.
  • .10 BAC - reduced ability to perform basic driving tasks, like maintaining lane positioning and braking.
  • .15 BAC - significant vehicle control impairment, inattentiveness, and decreased visual and auditory processing.

The No. 1 safe driving tip for the biggest drinking day of the year is to not get behind the wheel if you have been drinking. Research has shown that a driver with a BAC between .05 and .07 is 6 to 17 more likely to be killed in a single-vehicle accident than a driver with a .00 BAC.

The 2023 Blackout Wednesday Alcohol-Impaired Driving campaign will take place on November 22, 2023. NHTSA encourages you to post leading up to and including this day while friends are reuniting and participating in celebrations that may involve alcohol.

Below are some relevant hashtags to use when posting about the campaign:

  • #BlackoutWednesday
  • #HappyThanksgiving
  • #BuzzedDriving
  • #ImpairedDriving
  • #Drinksgiving

By working together with the NHTSA and their Blackout Wednesday Campaign, we can share their social media playbook, which includes specific content and assets, along with instructions, to address drivers and encourage them not to drive impaired. Our communication efforts during this time of the year may help save lives.

For more information, visit here.

Judie Nuskey is the director of operations at Advanced Driver Training Services (ADTS) and assists corporations in creating custom driver training programs to lower (or keep low) their crash rates.

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