Thanksgiving is just a few days away, and more people than ever will be on our nation’s roads. AAA projects 54.3 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more away from home this Thanksgiving, a 4.8 percent increase over last year. With the holiday comes one of the most dangerous stretches of time to be on the road due to cold weather and the three D’s: drunk, distracted and drowsy driving.
As the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) noted in a press release last week, substance abuse during this holiday has become something of a cultural phenomenon, and is associated with binge drinking. The day before Thanksgiving has been promoted on social media as “Blackout Wednesday,” “Danksgiving” (related to marijuana use), “Drinksgiving,” and so on.
These cute nicknames come with tragedy, however. More than 800 people died in alcohol-impaired driving crashes during the Thanksgiving holiday period (from 6:00 p.m. Wednesday to 5:59 a.m. Monday) between 2013 and 2017. It’s one of the deadliest holidays on our roads.
Drunk drivers put not only themselves in danger, but also everyone else on the road. It’s not enough to try to calculate your blood-alcohol concentration during gatherings. According to the NHTSA, the only way to be sure you’re not driving under the influence is to have a BAC of zero. Designating a sober driver ahead of time or making other alternate transportation arrangements can save lives and prevent unnecessary fines and possible jail time for driving under the influence. You can also download the NHTSA’s SaferRide mobile app for both Android and IOS. SaferRide allows users to call a taxi or a predetermined friend, and identifies the user’s location so he or she can be picked up.
Further, consider joining the NHTSA in a new social media campaign next week. All of the agency’s social media channels, including Instagram and Twitter, will be exclusively sharing content on the importance of planning a sober ride home. Social media posts with the hashtags #BoycottBlackoutWednesday and #DitchDanksgiving are intended to discourage driving drunk or high.
Late-night driving can also be highly dangerous, as it reduces focus and reaction time and increases the risk of a crash. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offer these signs of drowsy driving:
- Yawning or blinking frequently.
- Difficulty remembering the past few miles driven
- Missing your exit
- Drifting from your lane
- Hitting a rumble strip on the side of the road
If you or your driver seems tired or displays any of the above signs, stop driving immediately and make alternate arrangements.
In the midst of our crazy holiday shuffle, be sure to also drive without distraction. Your car might be packed with people (and maybe pets), dishes, and gifts. Your cell phone might be going off as friends and family members need directions or have last-minute questions. It’s tempting to try to multitask, but it only takes a second of inattention to cause a crash. Avoid all manual, cognitive and visual distractions until you’ve arrived at your destination.
As we all celebrate the holiday season with family and friends, let’s all remember to do our part to keep ourselves, our family, and other motorists safe on the roads.
A West Point graduate where he served as captain and military aviator, John Bair continues his commitment to our country through his efforts within the settlement planning industry. He has represented families of victims lost in the Flight 3407 crash, offered pro bono services to the families of 9/11 victims and drafted the first consumer protection bill for plaintiffs (H.R. 3699).