In an attempt to avoid a repeat of a deadly Thanksgiving weekend last year, authorities in Ocean County have a strong message for those venturing out this weekend: make sure you have a designated driver.
The Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office said Tuesday that the stepped-up enforcement would consist of “numerous” sobriety checkpoints and roving patrols, concentrated in the Seaside Heights area. The program will also include the presence of multiple drug recognition experts – officers who are trained to detect whether someone is driving impaired due to the use of illicit drugs. Those officers were added due to the Ocean County’s continuing heroin crisis, said Prosecutor Joseph D. Coronato.
Last year, seven out of 10 fatal accidents over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend in New Jersey were caused by impaired driving, Coronato said, which prompted the stepped-up patrols this year.
Thanksgiving Eve is widely recognized as one of the year’s biggest nights in the bar scene. Most of Seaside Heights’ bars and nightclubs are hosting parties this weekend.
“It appears that Thanksgiving is no longer just the holiday for breaking bread with loved ones, but for many it now included celebrating excessively with alcohol or drugs,” Coronato said in a statement. “The significant increase in the number of impaired drivers causing last year’s Thanksgiving fatal accidents is extremely disturbing. The danger that impaired driving poses is just too important to ignore.”
Each year, impaired drivers account for about a third of all fatal accidents. A total of 38 people died on the county’s roadways last year, Coronato said.