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It may surprise many that over the last several years, Thanksgiving weekend has become one of the biggest drinking holidays of the year, with Blackout Wednesday—Thanksgiving Eve—surpassing even the New Year’s holiday for drinking, DUIs, and all the issues that go with them.

At SCRAM Systems, we looked at our own data trends for the holidays, and the results are in: On Thanksgiving Day 2011, we saw a 54% jump in drinking violations, compared to the average for the rest of the year. Thanksgiving was second only to New Year’s, where we saw a 62% increase in offender drinking.

Those violations were for individuals monitored 48 times a day. They knew they’d get caught and that jail could be a consequence. And the temptations were still that difficult.

So what about the ones that aren’t being monitored?

Last year the Wall Street Journal ran a story about Blackout Wednesday, which has become the biggest drinking night of the year in many communities for the younger demographic. Establishments from sea to shining sea gear up for the onslaught.

But with the drinking goes all the problems—domestic violence, public intoxication, alcohol-involved assault, hospital admissions—and of course, drunk driving. And the celebrations don’t end after the turkey. Law enforcement gears up roadside check points beginning today, and lasting through next Sunday. In 2010 Pennsylvania State Troopers arrested 197 people for DUI over the Christmas weekend. New Year’s: 267. And Thanksgiving weekend: 412 DUI arrests statewide.

Some stats:

  • NIAAA estimates that two to three times more people die as a result of alcohol-involved crashes during the holidays than any other time during the year.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicts that 1,200 people will be killed and 25,000 will be injured between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day in traffic accidents caused by alcohol.

Some speculate that the Thanksgiving revelry may take people by surprise. Public service campaigns have long educated us on the importance of a safe ride home on New Year’s and even Christmas. Thanksgiving, it seems, had less focus. The duration of the celebration is a factor, as well. The traditional four-day weekend inspires a longer period of celebration.

But celebrating is one thing. Violating conditions placed on you by the court is entirely another, and the jump in violations serves as a cautionary tale for corrections personnel as well as communities. The natural coping skill during stress for alcohol abusers is to drink. You combine the financial strains of the season, work stress (if you’re lucky enough to have a job), and (gulp) family time, and you have a lot of stress. Top it with social temptations at every turn, and it’s easy to understand how those struggling with alcohol can find this time of year so difficult.

Sober Days for the Holidays

Our data also underscores the value of measuring offender compliance from the perspective of each individual on any given day. Sober Days. Because while we see a jump in violations, in 2011, on any given day between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, 99.37% of all those monitored were completely sober. The average the rest of 2011 hovered at 99.5%. Since our offenders have generally been assessed as having alcohol dependence or abuse issues, and who have misused alcohol enough to repeatedly be in trouble with the law, the level of sobriety on any giving day is remarkable.

Thanksgiving marks the launch of our annual Sober Days for the Holidays campaign, designed to help corrections professionals prepare for the challenges of the season and drive public awareness of the risks of alcohol and drunk driving during this time of year. On behalf of all of us at AMS, we would like to wish all of our clients a safe and sober holiday weekend!

Sobering Up Administrator

Sobering Up Administrator

Sobering Up: A blog about drunk driving, alcohol addiction, and criminal justice, is anything but a corporate blog. Sobering Up is an opportunity for anyone interested or involved in the issues of drunk driving, alcohol-fueled crime, alcohol dependence and addiction, and the justice system to participate in the conversation.


  1. In the UK the New Year holiday has the highest insidance of drink driving. Over the years there has always been a big drink driving campaign in December. Perhaps with Thanks giving being in November the anti drink driving campaigns don’t start early enough

  2. Those numbers don’t surprise me with the increase in DUI accidents during the holidays. People tend to overdo during these times of the years and don’t use their best judgements.

  3. Im one of the DUI offenders, no excuses. I wanted to die when my MOTHER died in 2009. Other times because of a divorce. 3 dui in 3yrs. It destroyed my life. I went into a deep depression, lost my job ,IM in a place I feel so low. I lost my lic. for 7yrs. Every job you need a valid dr. lic. I just think if you didn’t hurt anyone, THANK GOD. I think give 2nd chances to the offenders that are sober, I help others to a new path. I have been sober 4yrs. Pay my fines on time.I did all my programs in 2 months before I was sentence, disaponted was not reconized for staying longer in the program.Well Im sober and im so proud. I WISH MY MOM COULD BE HERE TO SEE ME SOBER HER ONLY WISH SHE DIDNT WANT ME TO BE LIKE MY DAD BECAUSE HE WOULD NOT STOP DRINKING HE DIED AT AGE 34. LEFT HER TO RAISE 5 GIRLS.To my Mother IM Sober I hope you can see me.I LOVE YOU MOM.

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