Local law enforcement agencies are increasing their number of patrols Wednesday night - the unofficial 'biggest bar night of the year.'
The Michigan State Police, Livingston County Sheriff's Department and the Brighton Police Department will all have increased patrols - in car and by foot - and some beginning as early as 8 p.m.
Last year, 166 people were arrested statewide for alcohol-related offenses between 6 p.m. Wednesday and 4 a.m. Thanksgiving morning, according to the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning (OHSP). Five of those arrests occurred in Livingston County.
Livingston County Sheriff Bob Bezotte said that while he's heard how Wednesday night is supposedly the biggest bar night of the year, he doesn't think there's any more activity than there is on other holiday nights such as New Year's Eve or St. Patrick's Day.
"I think awareness and telling people that we're going to be out there is a deterrent," he said. "It doesn't deter everybody, but letting them know about the exta patrols gets them thinking about the consequences of drinking and driving.
"If people choose to drink and drive, and get behind the wheel, then we're going to address those issues, Bezotte said. "But we also need to address continued education of the negative aspect of drunk driving. There's nothing worse for us to get on the scene and see that people are injured or killed because of negligence of a drunk driver - that's been one of my pet peeves my whole career."
Michigan State Police Brighton Post Commander Lt. Joel Allen said that during all holidays, 100 percent of the focus is put on traffic enforcement. Things such as investigations and reports are held off until after the holidays.
While sheriff's deputies and state troopers will have extra police patrolling the roads, The City of Brighton police will be on foot patrol in the streets of downtown Brighton.
The foot patrol detail is something the department has done randomly last winter and over the summer, according to Brighton Police Lt. Jon Westendorf.
Westendorf said the program has become very successful because the police have developed excellent working relationships with bar staffs, so they're no longer afraid of the police coming into the bars.
"What we're trying to do is be a uniform presence downtown," he said.
Additionally, with police walking up and down the street, people are more comfortable walking to their cars late at night, Westendorf said.
"Seeing that uniform presence downtown, I'm very certain, has deterred a lot of problem activity inside the bar - because it's not just up and down the sidewalk, we're in and out of the bars too," Westendorf said. "It's a friendly presence. We're down there to deter the bad activities. it's kind of proactive in trying to eliminate these drunk driving arrests because we're identifying some of these people beforehand and getting them turned over to their friends who will get them home or getting them in a cab and other things like that. We're trying to be much more proactive then simply reactive."
So if you plan on going out celebrating the night before Thanksgiving, SEMCOG recommends following these safe driving tips:
- Don’t drink and drive.
- Don’t text and drive.
- Plan a safe way home before festivities begin.
- Designate your sober driver before the party starts.
- If you’re impaired, call a taxi, sober friend or family member, or use public transportation.
- If you see a drunk driver on the road, contact local law enforcement.
- If you know someone who is about to drive while impaired, take their keys and help them make other arrangements to get to their destination safely.
- Always make sure you and your passengers are properly secured, wearing seatbelts.