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Why 'Blackout Wednesday' poses a special risk for San Antonio drivers this year

High traffic volume and heavy drinking make Thanksgiving Eve one of the deadliest days on American roadways each year.

SAN ANTONIO — Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and local law enforcement agencies warn Nov. 24 will among the year's most dangerous nights for driving. 

More Americans travel on the day before Thanksgiving than on any other day each year. The date is also ripe for binge drinking. 

"(Young people) are coming back from college, having that break, experiencing newfound freedoms and getting back together," MADD state program manager Jackie Ipina said. 

For this reason, the night before Thanksgiving is sometimes referred to as 'Blackout Wednesday.' Ipina notes that seasonal depression can also prompt overindulgence. 

"People might turn to alcohol to alleviate that pain," she said. 

About 140 drunk drivers are involved in fatal crashes on the night preceding Thanksgiving each year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's pre-pandemic research. 

In response, the Texas Department of Public Safety says more troopers will patrol the roads from Nov. 24 through Nov. 29. They'll target impaired drivers, drivers and passengers not wearing seatbelts, and drivers that do not move over and slow down when passing stopped emergency vehicles. 

Ipina says there's no excuse to drive drunk. She recommends designating a driver who will not drink any alcohol, scheduling a rideshare pickup, or planning to stay in one place overnight.

"The way we're planning our perfect outfit, we need to plan our perfect way of getting back home," she said. "We always think, 'It's not going to happen, I'm not that drunk,' or 'I live right around the corner.'"

Ipina knows firsthand those excuses can be costly. One of her high school classmates died in a car wreck involving a drunk driver.

"You don't want to endanger yourselves or endanger your friends," she said.

Sober people who must drive on the night before Thanksgiving should try to return home as early as possible. The deadliest time for driving generally falls between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. 

Ipina also recommends driving in the middle or right lane. Wrong-way, drunk drivers often mistake the oncoming left lane for their own right lane.