The holidays naturally give rise to DWI law-related stories and topics. In fact, Thanksgiving weekend has surpassed St. Patrick’s Day and New Year’s as the deadliest time for drunk driving. Recent data from the Denver-based Alcohol Monitoring Systems (AMS) demonstrate that out of 500,000 DUI offenders tested around the clock for drinking, violations are 38 percent higher than average on Thanksgiving Day, 34 percent higher on Thanksgiving Eve, and 31 percent higher over the long holiday weekend.
Of particular concern is that those in the aforementioned study have been court ordered not to drink. Thus, the number of individuals who are not being monitored and who pose a danger is likely much higher.
Reasons for Excessive Thanksgiving Alcohol Consumption
A long holiday weekend, family celebrations, and season stress can all contribute to heavier alcohol consumption than would normally be the case. So much, in fact, that Thanksgiving Eve has been nicknamed “Blackout Wednesday” or “Drinksgiving.”
Compounding the problem is the large number of people who travel for the holiday who are sharing America’s roads with drunk drivers. According to AAA, nearly 49 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more via automobile for Thanksgiving this year alone. This represents an increase of one million travelers—or 1.9 percent—from 2015, and the most travelers overall since 2007. In 2014, drunk drivers were responsible for over one-third of all Thanksgiving weekend traffic fatalities across the U.S.
Minnesota Holiday Statistics
Over the 2015-2016 holiday season, Minnesota authorities arrested 2,502 motorists for driving under the influence thanks to increased police officer presence on the state’s highways and byways. Among those cities with the highest number of arrests were Oakdale (173) and Golden Valley (172). Minneapolis police arrested 59 people, while St. Paul recorded 74 arrests.
Among those arrested, blood alcohol concentrations (BAC) ranged from Minnesota’s legal limit of .08 to as high as .40—over four times the legal limit.
Thankfully, there were no fatalities during this time.
Increased Use of DWI Checkpoints
Sobriety roadblocks—also known as DUI checkpoints—are roadblocks set up by law enforcement agencies for the express purpose of catching drunk drivers. In 1990, the Michigan Supreme Court held that DUI roadblocks violate the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution as an unlawful search. The U.S. Supreme Court—in a split decision—overruled the Michigan decision and held that DUI checkpoints do not violate federal law because the threat that drunk drivers pose to other motorists is a legitimate and narrowly tailored objective that supersedes the minor intrusion into an individual motorist’s rights.
However, dissenting justices argued that the Constitution does not have room for exceptions and forcing motorists to participate in “suspicionless investigatory seizures” is unconstitutional. The Court chose to let each state decide the legitimacy and validity of DUI checkpoints and whether law enforcement agencies could or could not use them.
Presently, twelve states do not use sobriety checkpoints:
- Rhode Island
Thus, whereas Minnesota motorists do not have to worry about being subjected to said checkpoints, those traveling across state lines should be cognizant of these roadblocks and where travelers may encounter them.
About Alcohol Monitoring Systems, Inc. (AMS)
Established in 1997, Denver-based AMS is the world’s leading supplier of alcohol testing technology for the criminal justice industry. In addition to its SCRAM Systems electronic alcohol monitoring technologies such as the SCRAM Remote Breath, SCRAM GPS, and SCRAM House Arrest, the company continues to lead the industry in its cutting edge and increasingly sophisticated technology.
AMS has launched its Sober Days for the Holidays Resource Center, a website loaded with tips for navigating through the stressful holiday season without alcohol and how to protect friends and family from the ills of DWI. This site contains the company’s Thanksgiving-through-New Year’s infographic to raise awareness about the dangers of drunk driving, especially over the holidays.