Local officials put out warning against DUI ahead of Blackout Wednesday

PITTSBURGH — The night before Thanksgiving is known as one of the biggest party days of the year. Blackout Wednesday or Drinksgiving is also one of the deadliest days on the roads.

“When you see the signs, DUI you can’t afford it,” said Pam Wahal with Allegheny County Pre-Trial Services. “It means it in more ways than one. It hits you in the pocketbook. Some people can go to jail over it. Some people lose their lives.”

On the day before Thanksgiving, Allegheny County Pre-Trial Services, PennDOT, the PA DUI Association, Ross West View EMS and local law enforcement put out a plea to drivers not to operate a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs. In 2021, between November 1 and December 31, there were more than 400 crashes involving an impaired driver in southwest PA. Out of those crashes, nine people died.

“Enjoy yourself,” said Wahal. “Have fun with your family and friends. If you’re going to be drinking, have a safe way home. There’s so many rideshares now. People who would be glad to pick you up if you were drinking. We just want to make sure that everyone gets home and is able to enjoy the holiday season. We don’t want to have any more DUIs.”

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At the county level, Allegheny processed about 5,000 DUIs last year.

“Our DUIs now are including a lot more of alcohol and drugs,” said Wahal. “And a lot of the drugs are over the counter. We now are in the process of cold and flu season, a lot of the over-the-counter medication that is included with that can get you a DUI. If it impairs your driving at all, you can get a DUI.”

Ross West View EMS Executive Director Greg Porter says around this time of the year, their call volume nearly doubles.

“Nobody’s saying don’t have a good time,” said Greg Porter. “If you want to enjoy your family, enjoy drinks or whatever it is that you’re doing, have fun. We don’t take that away from you, but don’t get in the car and put the rest of us at risk.”

According to a PennDOT press release, Blackout Wednesday is one of the largest drinking days of the year and kicks off the increasing trend in impaired driving crashes.

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