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Blackout Wednesday: How bad are alcohol-related arrests in Philly right before Thanksgiving?

The last few years, the night before Thanksgiving has developed a reputation as one of the wildest party nights of the year. Some call it Blackout Wednesday and regard it as bigger than New Year’s Eve.     

Does that ring true in Philadelphia?

Billy Penn got statistics for DUIs and public drunkenness from the Philadelphia Police Department for the last couple of years on Thanksgiving Eve and examined statistics on alcohol-related crashes statewide from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. Those types of crashes tend to increase substantially the day before Thanksgiving and throughout this holiday weekend. But by citations of DUI’s and drunkenness, Philadelphia is actually pretty tame.  

In 2014, there were 11 citations for public drunkenness and DUI. In 2013, there were only seven and all of them were for DUIs. Not one person, according to Philadelphia Police, was cited for public drunkenness on what is supposed to be the craziest night of the year.

The average daily rate of DUIs and drunkenness violations in Philadelphia from 2010 to 2014 has been about 14.8 per day and was about 13 per day in 2013 and 2014. So the number of DUI and public drunkenness citations don’t even meet the daily average.

Other major drinking holidays have rates of drunkenness and DUI’s that exceed the average and Thanksgiving Eve. St. Patrick’s Day earlier this year featured 22 citations and 11 the previous year. New Year’s Eve had 12 citations last year and 24 in 2013.

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Alcohol-related crashes loom as a larger problem this time of the year. These types of crashes are defined as accidents involving either a driver or a pedestrian with a blood-alcohol-level of .01 or above. In 2014, according to the Department of Transportation, Pennsylvania had 154 of these crashes on the night before Thanksgiving, 150 on Thanksgiving and 176 the day after Thanksgiving. In 2013, it was 172 on the day before, 194 on and 180 after. The average daily number of crashes during these years was around 30, so that would put the Thanksgiving holiday as well above the average.

It’s also the holiday featuring the most alcohol-related crashes, though the Department of Transportation didn’t keep track of Saint Patrick’s Day or New Year’s Eve. Here’s where Thanksgiving ranks among the other holidays it did keep track of.

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Those statistics could make it seem like everyone in the state gets loaded and goes out for a joyride over the next couple of days, but keep in mind there’s another reason: More people are on the roads traveling during holidays like Thanksgiving. The share of alcohol-related crashes compared to total crashes in the days before, during and after Thanksgiving in 2013 and 2014 was around 10 percent. The average share for a normal day for those years was about 9 percent.

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