Police concerned about “Drinksgiving” drivers

Bars and restaurants will be filled with people celebrating ahead of a long holiday weekend
Published: Nov. 23, 2022 at 5:54 PM CST
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APPLETON, Wis. (WBAY) - Bars and restaurants across the area are expected to be busy Wednesday night as people kick off a long holiday weekend.

It’s often called “Drinks-giving” but it goes by another name, “Blackout Wednesday.”

It’s a day that sees an increase in the number of crashes caused by impaired drivers.

A man and an unborn child died in a series of crashes on Interstate 41 in Outagamie County last Sunday. Authorities say they began with two separate crashes involving drivers under the influence.

“Days leading up to the holiday, on a Sunday afternoon, driving down the interstate, people’s lives changed forever because of the selfishness of others and that’s just not OK,” Lt. Mark Wery with the Fox Valley Metro Police Department said.

The initial crash was a single-car rollover. As traffic slowed down, a pregnant driver, who police say was also impaired, swerved to avoid the vehicle in front of her, flipping her pickup truck in the median.

“At the end of the day you could see the defeated look on some of the first responders’ faces to say, ‘This can’t be happening. How is this happening at this rate?’” said Wery.

Fox Valley Metro P.D. took to its Facebook page to plead with drivers to be responsible and not drive impaired.

It’s an important message ahead of the holiday weekend when bars and restaurants are expected to be busy, especially Wednesday night.

“It’s proven in the past, through statistics, that starting tonight through the weekend we do receive a rise in drunk driving on our roadways,” Lt. Wang Lee of the Outagamie County Sheriff’s Office said.

That rise will be met with an increased law enforcement presence on local roadways. OWI task force deployments are scheduled in every local county starting Wednesday night and running through the weekend.

“Be responsible, be safe, especially nowadays with the different apps that people can get rides home -- I know the tavern league has free rides -- family, friend,” Lee said.

It’s not just an app on your phone or a Safe Ride ticket home from a local bar. AAA is offering a Get Home Safely program this holiday season, too.

“We are going to be activating our Tow 2 Go program, and this is an anti-impaired driving campaign where, whether you’re a AAA member or not, if you are leaving somewhere and don’t feel safe to drive because of impairment you can call our special toll-free number that we have set up for this program and get a free ride home for yourself as well as your vehicle so you don’t have to leave it somewhere overnight,” AAA’s Nick Jarmusz said.

Because at the end of the day, and throughout the holidays, the goal is to get everyone home safe and sound.

”There’s no excuse. You can call a friend, you can call a family member, you can call a neighbor,” Lt. Wery said. “I think most people would say they’re going to help someone in need. There’s apps -- Uber, Lyft -- there’s probably more I don’t even know. You can take the bus. You can walk. I know in a lot of cases our officers that see intoxicated individuals will give them a ride. There is no excuse to get behind the wheel when you’re under the influence of either a restricted or controlled substance or alcohol.”

Police point to the series of crashes on I-41 that began with two drivers they believe were under the influence