Blackout Wednesday lives up to its name: Binge drinking and drunk driving spike on Thanksgiving Eve

Looking forward to scoring mega deals on Black Friday? You have to make it through Blackout Wednesday first.

In many parts of the country, Thanksgiving Eve has become the biggest drinking night of the year, earning it the nickname “Blackout Wednesday.”

A “Perfect Storm” for Excessive Drinking

A number of factors contribute to this rise in drinking. Many people don’t work on Thanksgiving or the days after, making for a long weekend effect where people feel free to drink without having to manage the ill-effects at the office the morning after. And the holiday spirit, along with the joys or stresses of being around family, can lead people to drink more than they normally would. Blackout Wednesday is also big with college students, who see Thanksgiving break as the last opportunity to party before the push to finals and the end of the semester sets in.

But the trend isn’t driven just by people wanting to blow off a little steam. Most notably, clubs and promoters in Chicago formalized the “holiday” a few years ago with organized, publicized events. Now, bars across the U.S. promote Blackout Wednesday specials, proclaiming it the “best bar night of the year.” And more upscale venues are getting in on the action, like the tony Hotel Americano in New York, which will kick off the night with a party in their roof-top bar. The hotel’s creative director admits not knowing why it is such a big drinking day, but jokes, “we party all night to help us get through the next day with our friends and family.”

Blackout Wednesday on Social Media

Social media provides a glimpse of just what Thanksgiving Eve has come to mean for some. On Twitter, even with several days to go, the hashtag #BlackoutWednesday is already trending with tweets like:

  • I got one more final on tuesday but after that let’s go rage for #BlackoutWednesday
  • Is it #BlackoutWednesday yet? I just wanna get obnoxiously drunk with my childhood friends
  • A week from now we’re all going to have a horrible hangover #blackoutwednesday
  • I may be regretting going home for so long over Thanksgiving….. Thank god for #BlackoutWednesday

Increase in Alcohol Violations

Perhaps most frighteningly, Alcohol Monitoring Systems reports that drinking violations, for individuals they monitor for alcohol as part of court-ordered sobriety, go up by 54% during the long Thanksgiving weekend. These are people who are under supervision for drunk driving and other alcohol-related crimes, know they are being tested, will be caught, and will face consequences. It’s easy to imagine what’s happening with people who aren’t being monitored.

Communities are combatting the road dangers of Blackout Wednesday by stepping up patrols and DUI checkpoints starting Wednesday. Many jurisdictions are participating in NHTSA’s “Buzzed Driving is Drunk Driving” program, or creating their own, like Maryland’s “Thanksgiving Belts & Booze” campaign. But in addition to increased DUIs and alcohol-related crashes, Blackout Wednesday has also been associated with an increase in alcohol poisoning cases, underage drinking, and sexual assaults.

Is Thanksgiving Eve a big drinking night in your area? If so, what is your community doing to handle the problems of Blackout Wednesday?

Want to learn more? Click here to see and share the full “Holiday Drinking & DUIs” infographic to help #changethetrend.

Blackout Wednesday is one of the biggest drinking nights of the year

3 Responses to “Blackout Wednesday lives up to its name: Binge drinking and drunk driving spike on Thanksgiving Eve”

  1. 3 years ago, this was a life changing day for me. Drunk driving is not worth it, I will make sure to not leave my house on blackout Wednesday this year.

  2. Going on 7 years of sobriety. Feb 17th drunken days were over & days of living began.

  3. Social media is alive and well in this day and age. The #blackoutWednesday trend was embarrassing, and I’m sure more than a few of the participants were caught behind the wheel.