By now, you've probably had your fill of "Black Friday." The day retailers typically make it into the black has really become more of a figurative, rather than literal, day. Depending on the store or the online site, Black Friday is more a theme for the month of November, rather than a single 24-hour period.
All the marketing hype does succeed in doing one thing though: obscuring the fact that Thanksgiving is the deadliest holiday of the year.
You read that right. More people die in drunk driving accidents on Thanksgiving than they do on Memorial Day, Fourth of July or even New Year's Eve. In fact, Thanksgiving is actually book ended by two days with black in the title - Black Friday and Blackout Wednesday. If you haven't heard of Blackout Wednesday, you're not alone. Until a few years ago, many people assumed their greatest chance of getting hurt from a drunk driver was New Year's Eve. As it turns out, they couldn't be more wrong. The combination of a four-day weekend, relaxed drinking behavior from college students home on break and the false sense of calm on the road, causes many people to push their luck - and their blood alcohol level - too far.
It's a sobering reality that while Black Friday may be the day most people think of during Thanksgiving dinner, Blackout Wednesday is the one they should be more concerned about. For bars and restaurants, it can be a heavier day of alcohol consumption than St. Patrick's Day or New Year's Eve. The day has become so serious that Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) annually warns the public about the dangers of Thanksgiving Eve and the whole Thanksgiving weekend, as well they should.
Arizona DUI lawyer Christopher Corso has seen the damage firsthand. As a prosecutor for Maricopa County (Ariz.), Corso prosecuted thousands of DUIs in the Phoenix area. Now his firm defends many people arrested for driving under the influence. Recently I interviewed him on my radio program, the Price of Business Show.
"There's no getting around the fact people are drinking way too much over the Thanksgiving holiday," Corso said. "We've seen the numbers increase over the last several years and it really drives home the point Thanksgiving is a very dangerous time of the year. Instead of just focusing on New Year's Eve, people need to remember Thanksgiving."
And that starts with Millenials. Thanks to social media, Blackout Wednesday has its own trending hashtag (#BlackoutWednesday), encouraging college students to take advantage of their Thanksgiving break. Many bars promote the day now and many people are starting to take notice, including law enforcement. It is interesting to see something as serious as reckless driving under the influence of alcohol can be reduced to a humorous hashtag designed to drum up business, but those are the times in which we live.
Recently I interviewed, Dr. Colleen Mullen, Psy.D., LMFT, and she said:
There are both environmental and emotional factors that play into the rise of DUI's over the Thanksgiving weekend. Thanksgiving is the most traveled holiday of the year and people are looking to relax and reconnect with friends and family. Many people get their holiday reveling started early on Thanksgiving Eve, which is the most popular day of the year for your local bar. That being said, it is also a time of anxiety, stress and depression for a lot of people. The 'holiday season' kicks off and those with stressed relationships in their families can really be affected by the interaction. The flip side of that is that the holiday season can illuminate feelings of isolation for those that are separated or estranged from their families, or otherwise socially isolated for any reason during that time, such as a lack of finances for travel, stressed relationships or family conflicts. Certainly feelings of anxiety, stress and social isolation can lead people to self-medicate through drugs and alcohol. The result is a six-week holiday season in which some people are looking to party with friends and family and others may want to drown out their feelings about their interactions or lack thereof.
Attorney Corso may have summed it up best, saying "Anytime you mix drinking and driving, you're asking for trouble, giving the day its own hashtag doesn't make it any less dangerous."