Avoiding an OWI This Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a time for friends and family to get together and celebrate what they're thankful for. Yet, it is also when alcohol-related traffic accidents increase and is one of the deadliest holidays to drive.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2019, from the Wednesday before Thanksgiving to the Monday after, around 800 people were killed in crashes involving impaired drivers. Additionally, the National Safety Council (NSC) estimated that over 55,000 people would be injured in alcohol-related car accidents during the 2020 Thanksgiving holiday period (this is the most current data available at the time of this writing).

During the Thanksgiving holiday, police presence typically increases to keep impaired drivers off the road. Thus, more OWI arrests and charges are likely.

In this blog, we'll discuss the factors that may lead to the jump in impaired driving-related incidents and how planning can help you avoid an OWI arrest.

Factors Contributing to Alcohol-Related Accidents During Thanksgiving

The increase in impaired driving accidents is not just attributed to one thing. Many variables contribute to the spike.

Some of these include:

  • Alcohol consumption during the holiday weekend. Many people host or attend Thanksgiving gatherings where alcohol is served. These get-togethers often occur on the Wednesday before up until the Monday after.
  • More people on the road. During the holidays, people travel to see their friends and family. With increased traffic comes a greater likelihood of involvement in an accident.
  • Hazardous road conditions. In some parts of the country, Thanksgiving may fall on a rainy or snowy day. Icy or wet roads coupled with impaired driving increase the chances of a traffic crash.
  • Blackout Wednesday. During Thanksgiving, a recent trend is for people to get together on the Wednesday before for a night of partying and drinking. The tradition, which likely started because people do not have to work the next day, is referred to as Blackout Wednesday because revelers are encouraged to drink so much that they blackout. According to the NHTSA, between 2015 and 2019, 135 people were in fatal accidents on this day. Additionally, 47% of deadly crashes on Thanksgiving Eve between 2014 through 2018 involved drivers between 21 and 34 years of age.
  • Black Friday. One of the busiest shopping days happens on the day after Thanksgiving, with some sales even starting on the day of the holiday. As people head out for some amazing deals, more cars are on the road. Often, Black Friday shoppers make their way to the store at night or in the early morning when driving visibility is decreased.

Thanksgiving of 2021 may see even more impaired driving-related accidents because our lives were put on hold last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020, many people halted their travel plans and most bars and restaurants were closed to prevent the spread of the disease. It is also possible that more people will be on the road this Thanksgiving, as they forgo plane travel to avoid contracting COVID.

Driving with Any Amount of Alcohol in Your System Can Lead to an OWI

Although people may associate driving under the influence with having a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more, it is important to remember that a driver could face an OWI charge even if their BAC is below that limit.

Iowa law provides that a person commits the offense when they are under the influence of alcohol. In other words, if a person's normal faculties are affected to the extent that they cannot drive safely, they may be arrested and charged with an OWI.

The following illustrates the effects of alcohol at three different levels:

  • 0.02 BAC: The individual's vision and judgment may decrease, and they may have difficulty with divided attention tasks (doing two different things at the same time).
  • 0.05 BAC: The individual may have trouble with small muscle control and may lack coordination. They may have a slowed reaction time and difficulty steering their vehicle.
  • 0.08 BAC: The individual may not be able to comprehend or understand information. Their judgment and reasoning abilities may also be substantially reduced.

(source NHTSA)

How to Stay Safe Thanksgiving Weekend

Celebrating with friends and family is a wonderful way to spend the holiday. But anyone who attends a gathering or event where alcohol will be served is encouraged to take steps to stay safe this Thanksgiving.

Below are a few things to do to prevent driving while impaired:

  • Use public transportation: If you've consumed a couple of drinks, take a bus to your next destination.
  • Use a rideshare service: If public transportation isn't feasible, log onto your rideshare app and have someone pick you up or drop you off.
  • Call a cab: If ridesharing isn't available in your area, contact a local cab company for a ride.
  • Spend the night: If you're comfortable, stay over at your friend's or family member's place, and wait until you're sober to get on the road.
  • Take keys from those who've been drinking: If you notice that your friends or family members have had a bit to drink, ask them for their keys to prevent them from getting behind the wheel.

If you or a loved one has been accused of operating a vehicle while impaired, speak with an experienced lawyer about your case. Defenses may be raised to fight your charges and seek an optimal outcome.

At Keegan, Tindal & Jaeger, we are ready to help you through your OWI case. Call us at (319) 499-5524 or contact us online today. We serve Iowa City, Cedar Rapids, Davenport, the Quad Cities, and all of Eastern Iowa.