Blackout Wednesday marks start of deadliest season for drunk driving
November 16, 2017, DENVER—With Thanksgiving just a week away, officials around the country are bracing for one of the most dangerous times of the year for drunk driving and alcohol-related fatalities—and with good cause. New data from high-risk DUI offenders tested 24/7 for drinking shows that violations among the monitored group are 44 percent higher than average during the long Thanksgiving weekend.
The data, compiled by Denver-based Alcohol Monitoring Systems (AMS), is based on 2.6 billion readings from 600,000 repeat drunk-driving defendants monitored for alcohol with transdermal ankle bracelets.
According to AMS spokesperson Alison Betts, the findings highlight how closely drinking is tied to Thanksgiving. “We monitor people who have been court-ordered not to drink. They know they’ll get caught, and they know they’ll face serious consequences, including jail. So you can just imagine the rate of drinking for those who aren’t being monitored,” says Betts.
Because AMS’ testing protocol is automated and every 30 minutes, it provides unique insights into drinking behaviors and trends during holiday periods. The long holiday weekend, combined with family celebrations and holiday-related stress can lead people to drink more than usual, notes Betts. At the same time, driving is the most popular mode of Thanksgiving travel, making for a deadly combination.
Blackout Wednesday and #Drinksgiving
Drunk driving is expected to start increasing on Thanksgiving Eve, known as “Blackout Wednesday” or “Drinksgiving” in many cities. The terms are starting to trend on social media, with bars advertising drink specials for November 22. The start of the five-day holiday weekend means that many people don’t have to worry about heading into the office the next day, and it is a particularly high-risk drinking day for college students home from school.
“We work with criminal justice agencies around the country,” Betts notes, “and many of them say that drunk driving spikes as much on Thanksgiving Eve as on better known ‘drinking’ holidays.” AMS reports that alcohol violations among the offenders they monitor jump nearly 50 percent on Blackout Wednesday.
Resources to promote a safe and sober holiday season
AMS’ findings are especially troubling given recent news from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) that drunk driving deaths increased in 2016, for the second year in a row.
AMS is helping communities bring attention to the dangers of binge drinking and DUIs during Thanksgiving and the entire the holiday season with their Sober Days for the Holidays Resource Center. The digital center includes a Drinking and DUIs During the Holidays Infographic highlighting the dangers between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, tips for getting through the holidays without alcohol, social graphics to drive awareness, and links to additional drinking and driving safety resources.
About Alcohol Monitoring Systems, Inc. (AMS)
Established in 1997, Alcohol Monitoring Systems, Inc. (AMS) is the world’s leading provider of alcohol testing technologies for the criminal justice industry. The company’s flagship Continuous Alcohol Monitoring (CAM) technology, launched in 2003, revolutionized the way courts, agencies and treatment providers monitor and manage alcohol-involved offenders. In 2013 the company launched the SCRAM Systems suite of electronic monitoring technologies, which includes SCRAM Remote Breath®, SCRAM GPS®, and SCRAM House Arrest®. AMS employs 250 people worldwide and is a privately-held company headquartered in Littleton, Colorado.