Blackout Wednesday, which falls on the evening before Thanksgiving, is considered by many to be one of the biggest party nights of the year, and the unofficial start to the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. It is called Blackout Wednesday as that evening traditionally involves an entire night of binge drinking, which often leads to people blacking out. It is a night when college students, and others returning home for the holidays, usually meet up with friends and have a few (too many) drinks. Blackout Wednesday is also the beginning of a dangerous DUI season that runs all the way through New Year’s Day.
What Is Binge Drinking?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines binge drinking as “a pattern of drinking that brings a person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 grams percent or above.” Not everyone who engages in binge drinking is an alcoholic. Many binge drinkers simply like to have the occasional night where they consume excessive amounts of alcohol. This, unfortunately, can also be extremely dangerous not only for their personal health, but for the health and well being of others too. Most men will reach a 0.08 BAC after consuming five or more drinks within a two-hour period of time, while women can often exceed the legal drinking limit after consuming four or more drinks in one sitting.
How Did Blackout Wednesday Get Started?
Blackout Wednesday allegedly got its start as a result of college students coming home for the long holiday weekend, looking for an opportunity to blow off steam, get drunk, enjoy the company of old friends, all without having to worry about tests or any other obligations the next day. As Thanksgiving dinners are not usually served until the late afternoon or evening hours, Wednesday night became the traditional time to go out with friends before spending the long holiday weekend relaxing and recuperating before going back to school or work.
Some say that bartenders actually coined the term as patrons would get so intoxicated on the night before Thanksgiving that they would have a tendency to black out. Now bars are using the term as a promotional tool to drive in customers and get a head start on the holiday drinking season. Private parties are also very common on Blackout Wednesday, particularly among underage drinkers.
Risks of Binge Drinking among College Students
Syracuse is the home of Syracuse University, recently named as Princeton Review’s top party school in the nation. National surveys indicate at least one out of every six adults binge drinks an average of once a week. Binge drinking among college students, even those who are under the legal drinking age, is very common and is unfortunately an accepted social activity on college campuses. Binge drinking accounts for an estimated 90 percent of the alcohol consumed by underage drinkers.
The CDC states that binge drinking among college students, or alcohol consumption by underage youth, can lead to:
- Increased school absence
- Failing grades
- Social difficulties
- Legal problems
- Health and physical problems
- Unwanted and unprotected sexual activity
- Higher risk of suicide or homicide
- Adverse changes in brain development
- Alcohol poisoning
In addition to these problems of binge drinking, one of the most dangerous aspects of binge drinking is that statistics indicate that binge drinkers are 14 times more likely to drive drunk than non-binge drinkers.
Drinking and Driving During the Holidays
Drinking and driving do not mix. Drunk driving accidents between Blackout Wednesday and New Year’s Day are estimated to be two to three times higher than during any other time of the year. The CDC estimates 728 people will sustain injuries or lose their lives in alcohol-related car accidents each day during the winter holiday season, starting with Blackout Wednesday.
While it is tragic to lose a loved one at any time of the year, losing someone you love in a fatal binge drinking car accident around the holidays is particularly devastating. There is no reason for a binge drinker to be behind the wheel, and the loss of life could have easily been prevented if the drunk driver had chosen to use another form of transportation.
If you plan on drinking this holiday season, plan ahead. Limit your alcoholic intake. Designate a driver or find some other reliable type of transportation so you don’t endanger others and make a mistake that you will regret for the rest of your life.
Legal Responsibility of Bars: Dram Shop Liability
New York dram shop acts place the responsibility on bartenders and bar owners to refrain from serving alcohol to individuals who are already visibly intoxicated or who are underage. Bar owners or employees who serve alcohol to intoxicated patrons could also face a Class A misdemeanor charge, with the potential sentence of up to a year in prison and fines not to exceed $1,000 (or $5,000 for a corporation). Social hosts who knowingly serve alcohol to minors under the age of 21 also face potential exposure to legal liability.
Take responsibility for yourself and others this holiday season. You could save a life.
Wall Street Journal, “Before the Turkey, a Big Night of Drinking”
Huffington Post, “Top Party Schools 2014-15: Syracuse University named No. 1 by Princeton Review.”
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Binge Drinking Fact Sheet
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Underage Drinking Fact Sheet
WBTW News 13, “’Blackout Wednesday’ Growing as a Night of Binge Drinking and DUIs”
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