While many people are gearing up for Black Friday, police are bracing for a much darker start to the holidays: Blackout Wednesday.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports the number of people killed in drunken driving crashes during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend soared by 30 percent in 2010 compared with the rest of the year, with 174 people dying during the period.
The bulk of the fatalities happened during the early morning hours of Thanksgiving, the agency found.
"A lot of people treat that day like they would a Friday night. They don't have to go to work for the next few days so they'll leave work, they'll go out, they'll drink a lot and then they'll drive after drinking," says Jeff Miracle, Executive Director of the North Texas Chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Drivers.
"Our message to drivers is we're going to have a significantly large amount of troopers working with the city and county agencies to take people off the roads," says Washington State Patrol trooper Keith Leary.
Leary says the agency has already stepped up emphasis patrols in anticipation of the holiday and expects Wednesday night to be particularly busy.
"This is one of those holidays from now all the way until Christmas where a lot of gatherings take place where alcohol is served. A lot of times we don't think about what we need to do as far as getting to and from a location after drinking," he says.