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What are the Dangers of Blackout Wednesday?

Posted on: November 25, 2020

Thanksgiving is one of the busiest travel times of the year for road travel in the United States. In particular, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving is when many people choose to drive to their holiday destination. In recent years, it is also the day that has become the deadliest on U.S. roads, also known as Blackout Wednesday.

Thanksgiving Eve is a popular time for people who are home for the holiday to catch up with family and friends. Because of the celebrations, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving is a dangerous time to be on the roads. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), from 2012 to 2016, more than 800 people died in alcohol-related driving accidents during the Thanksgiving period, defined as 6:00 p.m. the Wednesday before to 6:00 a.m. the Monday after.

Thanksgiving is just the start of the holiday season. Statistics show that there is an increase in drunk driving accidents and deaths from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day throughout the United States. Motorists who are charged with impaired or drunk driving should reach out to an experienced criminal defense lawyer for assistance.

Tips for Safe Driving During Blackout Wednesday

Thanksgiving is certainly a time to celebrate and enjoy friends and relatives. Doing so safely and responsibly is the best way to ensure a happy holiday. Drunk driving accidents and deaths are preventable. The following are some tips for safe holiday driving from the NHTSA:

  • Those who plan to drink should plan to take a sober ride home. That could be designating a sober driver or arranging for a taxi or other transportation pick-up beforehand.
  • A person who has the least drinks is not a sober driver. Someone who has not had any drinks should be the designated driver.
  • Hosts of the gathering should help the designated drivers by offering plenty of non-alcoholic beverages and have beds ready for those who should not be driving.
  • If a guest is about to drive impaired, the host should take the keys away and arrange to get the friend home safely. An option would be to offer the guest a place to spend the night.
  • Suspected drunk drivers should be reported to police. Drivers should pull over safely and call 911. This quick action could save lives.
  • Motorists should wear a seat belt and practice other safe driving behaviors such as using turn signals and following the speed limit. Driving defensively is always wise. 

Safe driving during the holidays is possible. There are times, however, that people over-imbibe and are pulled over by the police. In those cases, a criminal defense lawyer can help.

Drunk Driving Charges in the United States

Drunk driving is illegal. Blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is how every jurisdiction determines drunk or impaired driving. Every one of these jurisdictions also has per se drunk driving laws, meaning any driver found to have a BAC of 0.08 or greater is guilty of driving under the influence. Per se is a Latin phrase that means, By itself. Therefore, having a 0.08 BAC by itself is enough to establish guilt without any other evidence of drunk driving. An immediate breath test or later blood test can determine the BAC.

If an arresting officer notices other signs of impairment, such as weaving across lanes or inability to pass field sobriety tests, there could be additional driving while impaired charges, even if the driver’s BAC measurement is under 0.08. Also, a driver in any jurisdiction who is under 21 years of age can be charged with DUI no matter his or her BAC measurement. Also, aggravating circumstances can bring additional charges, which include but are not limited to prior offenses, property damage, and child endangerment if a child was in the vehicle.

Every jurisdiction also has its own name for the drunk driving criminal charge. In New Jersey, there is no difference between driving while impaired and driving under the influence, so the following terms can be used interchangeably:

  • Driving under the influence of alcohol or other drugs (DUI)
  • Driving under the influence of intoxicants (DUII)
  • Driving while impaired (DWI)
  • Operating vehicle under the influence of alcohol or other drugs (OVI)
  • Operating under the influence (OUI)
  • Operating while intoxicated (OWI)
  • Operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated (OMVI)

Thinking, reasoning, reaction time, and muscle coordination are all affected by alcohol consumption, all abilities needed to operate a vehicle safely. The higher the BAC, the more challenged the driver will be to operate the vehicle in a safe manner.

How can a Criminal Defense Lawyer Help with a DUI/DWI Charge?

DUI is a serious offense. An accident while driving impaired can seriously injure or kill the driver and others or damage property. Even if there is no injury or property damage involved, the offense is still serious and could affect a person’s employment, reputation, and ability to continue driving. Also, there are fines, higher insurance rates, a scarred driving record, and possible jail time to consider.

Any driver who is charged with a DUI, or their loved one if the driver is seriously hurt, should immediately contact a criminal defense lawyer. Although lawyers are generally not able to fight charges when there is a clear 0.08 BAC measurement, they can help in the following ways:

  • Negotiate license suspension/driving privileges. In nearly all U.S. jurisdictions, an arresting officer can confiscate a driver’s license on the spot if a driver’s BAC is 0.08 or higher or the driver shows other signs of obvious impairment either in driving or field sobriety tests. A criminal defense lawyer may be able to help negotiate terms of the license suspension, especially for first-time offenders.
  • Bargain for reduced ignition-lock requirements. Some states, including New Jersey, require drivers convicted of DUI to use an in-car breathalyzer system to measure BAC every time they start their car. A criminal defense lawyer can help negotiate these terms.
  • Mitigate aggravating circumstances charges. If there are charges in addition to DUI or a history of driving offenses, a lawyer can try to get these charges reduced or eliminated.
  • Reduce severity of charges when the BAC is under 0.08.
  • Negotiate jail time.
  • Work to negotiate alcohol abuse assessment, treatment, and education requirements.
  • Lessen costs such as fines, insurance surcharges, and other fees.
  • File proper paperwork for auto insurance and with the state Department of Motor Vehicles.
  • Prepare drivers for court appearances and trials, especially in cases involving serious injury or death.
  • Prepare strong defense cases.
  • Minimize the time spent in court. A lawyer can make court appearances for the accused, lessening the time they need to take off work for court.
  • For any driver who is truly innocent of DUI charges, hiring a lawyer is a must.

A driver who is charged with DUI or impairment should never represent themselves in front of a judge. Laws are complex and change often. A criminal defense lawyer who focuses on drunk/impaired driving can help anyone charged with DUI or a related offense.

Freehold Criminal Defense Lawyers at Ellis Law Help Drivers with DUI Charges

If you or a loved one was charged with DUI/DWI or driving while impaired, do not fight the charges alone. The Freehold criminal defense lawyers at Ellis Law stay current on laws regarding DUI and can help in nearly all cases. Our skilled legal team will work closely with you to protect your rights and reduce or eliminate the charges against you. Call us at 732-308-0200 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Freehold, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout East Brunswick, Toms River, Middletown, Jersey City, Neptune, Hudson County, Union County, Essex County, and Ocean County, as well as Brooklyn and New York, New York.