Police departments across Long Island plan to increase patrols and enforcement of impaired and distracted driving for the holiday week, beginning with “Blackout Wednesday.”
The day before Thanksgiving is known as Blackout Wednesday because some college students who are home for the holiday and workers off for the rest of the week engage in binge drinking.
“You certainly don’t want to be missing from the Thanksgiving table,” said Michael Bushwack, deputy bureau chief of the Nassau County District Attorney’s vehicular crimes bureau. “And you don’t want to cause someone to be missing from the Thanksgiving table either.”
Nassau and Suffolk officials urged residents to carpool or take taxis, mass transit or ride-sharing services rather than risk driving under the influence.
Police arrested 65 drivers in Nassau County for drunk driving-related offenses from Wednesday to Monday of the 2017 Thanksgiving weekend, authorities said. There were 39 drunken driving arrests made by Suffolk County police officers last year during that time, according to police data.
At a Tuesday news conference at Nassau Community College, Nassau County officials announced additional patrols, and increased roadblocks to check for motorists driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs that will continue throughout the holiday season.
“If you’re driving drunk, you will be targeted by the police,” County Executive Laura Curran said, noting officers will have “zero tolerance” for offenders.
Police will also be looking for distracted drivers using their cellphones behind the wheel.
“Too many lives have been lost by careless mistakes made,” Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder said. “The roads are difficult enough.”
In Suffolk County, police will increase patrols on the roadways, as well as in shopping centers and malls, and have more impaired driving checkpoints, Commissioner Geraldine Hart said in a phone interview. Even with the higher police presence, Hart said she hopes Long Islanders will make a safe choice in the first place so there is less of a need for enforcement.
"We're hoping for a deterrent factor," she said.
The State Police on Long Island will also be increasing their enforcement of impaired driving, as well as distracted driving and speeding, this week as part of a statewide initiative.