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If Thanksgiving is any indication, holiday DUI arrests can be expected to rise.

Despite the repeated efforts of both law enforcement and private agencies to educate the public on the dangers and consequences of drunk driving, alcohol misuse during the holidays continues to trend upward.

DUI arrests on the rise this Thanksgiving season

Several states reported seeing their DUI arrest rates jump over the holiday weekend.

Arizona, a state with some of the toughest DUI laws in the country, saw Thanksgiving DUI arrests increase from 333 in 2016 to 377 in 2017 according to the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety.

It was similar news on the east coast. Pennsylvania reported 629 people arrested for alcohol-impaired driving, up from 610 the year before. The state also saw a 5.4% increase in crashes with 981 this year compared to 931 in 2016. Of those, 85 were alcohol-related, up from 61 the previous year.

In Colorado, DUI arrests jumped from 522 in 2016 to 613 during this year’s enforcement period and for the year, the number of fatal impaired driving crashes has risen as well. Through October 31, Colorado saw 193 alcohol-related crash deaths compared to 170 last year.

Holiday travel: Driving is most popular by far

When it comes to getting from Point A to Point B during the year-end holiday travel period, Americans log a lot of interstate miles. According to AAA, 45.5 million Americans took to the roads this Thanksgiving and last year, a record-high 103 million people hit the roads between December 23 and January 3.

With so many people on the roads, the spike in traffic-related deaths attributed to alcohol during the holidays becomes clearer. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 40% of traffic-related deaths during the holidays are a result of drunk drivers compared to 28% the rest of the year. And sadly, as the high-volume holiday traffic season progresses, the percentage of highway deaths related to alcohol rises:

  • 35% at Thanksgiving
  • 41% at Christmas
  • 58% at New Year’s

Why the spike in DUIs?

The explanation for the rise in DUI arrests is twofold:

  1. More people drink and drive during the holiday season
  2. Law enforcement agencies increase funding for holiday patrols, which includes budgeting overtime pay, all in an effort to crack down on those drivers choosing to break the law

Ultimately, the goal for every state is to reduce the number of drunk-driving crashes, injuries, and fatalities. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, 25,000 people will be injured in traffic accidents caused by alcohol and 1,200 will be killed.

But the response from law enforcement and other agencies is clear: once again, many jurisdictions plan to participate in NHTSA’s Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign during the holidays. So, don’t let a time meant for reflection and giving thanks turn into a season of regret: if you plan to drink over the holidays, also make plans for a safe and sober ride home.

For tips and more information on celebrating the holidays responsibly, visit the Sober Days for the Holidays Resource Center.

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.


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