‘Blackout Wednesday’ marks beginning of metro police’s heavier focus on drunk driving

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Some know the day before Thanksgiving as "Blackout Wednesday." Others have nicknamed it "Drinksgiving."

Statistics show that date annually is popular for binge drinking, which often leads to drunk driving crashes. Bars and taverns are usually filled with customers on this day each year, and law enforcement officials recognize the occasion as the start of the holiday crackdown on drunk drivers.

A news release from the Platte County Sheriff's Department said 14 police agencies are joining forces to combat drunk driving this weekend. That task force, as well as another from the metro, met with reporters Wednesday night in south Kansas City to detail their plans for DUI enforcement and saturation patrols.

However, one representative from Mothers Against Drunk Driving complained that more can be done to fight the problem.

Leann Lewis understands the heartbreaking consequences of drunk driving personally. She's worked as a spokesperson for Mothers Against Drunk Driving since 2008 when her father, Melvin Briggs, and a friend were killed when an intoxicated motorist hit them head on.

"We ask that everybody is going to be out celebrating, before they take the first sip, to make a plan," Lewis told FOX4.

The latest statistics from MADD show drunk driving crashes are up slightly across the nation. MADD representatives agree with a study presented by the American Journal of Epidemiology that praise ride-hailing services, such as Uber and Lyft, for making it easier than ever to avoid driving after drinking.

Thanksgiving is a deadly weekend in Kansas City, according to police statistics, which show 800 drunk driving deaths on the holiday weekend since 2013.

Missouri State Highway Patrol Sgt. Collin Stosberg told FOX4 the Wednesday before Thanksgiving is also the busiest travel day of the year. Stosberg, a 21-year veteran in law enforcement, said troopers will be using saturation patrols as they look for impaired drivers.

"Every two hours in our state, someone is killed or injured by an impaired driver. It's amazing that it's 2018 -- almost 2019 -- and people are still making that horrible choice to drive impaired," Stosberg said.

However in 2017, Missouri lawmakers slashed funding for sobriety checkpoints. Lewis, as well as many law enforcement officers, complain that cost-cutting move was a bad decision.

"Taking away sobriety checkpoints is a tool our law enforcement community needed. To take that away is devastating to our community and could lead, and probably will lead to more fatalities, injuries and crashes," Lewis said.

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