INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — The night before Thanksgiving is widely known as one of the biggest drinking nights of the year.
As the holiday period kicked off, police in Indianapolis added patrols Wednesday night in two of the city’s bar districts — Broad Ripple and downtown — due to an expected increase in people heading to the bars.
Overtime officers were assigned specifically to these two areas, in hopes of keeping people safe as they headed out to partake in the festivities.
“We understand it’s the holiday weekend. Lots of folks will be probably visiting the Circle City, lots of folks will probably be visiting friends throughout the city and so what we want to do is make sure that everyone has a safe weekend throughout the holiday weekend,” said William Young, Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department public information officer.
“With the amount of officers that we have that will be working, I’m in hopes, praying that we have a safe weekend,” said Young.
Young said having increased patrols and the ability to engage with the community will not only hopefully help deter crime, but also deter people from getting behind the wheel of a car after drinking.
“We would encourage folks if you’re going to be drinking, make sure to utilize those car sharing apps that we didn’t have 20 years ago,” said Young.
IMPD said extra patrols with the department’s DUI Unit will also be working throughout the city to keep an eye out for impaired drivers and make sure the roadways are safe.
“Save a life, don’t drink and drive,” said Jeremy Wilson. “There’s a lot of holidays that are gonna never personally be the same for me, so don’t take that away from someone else by making a stupid decision.”
Wilson knows the pain of losing a loved one at the hands of a person who made the decision to drink and get behind the wheel of a car.
In July, his brother Geoffrey and his brother’s best friend, Cody Dion, were in town visiting and decided to ride their longboards to a gas station on Kentucky Avenue near their house to grab snacks. The pair never made it home.
“They had everything going for them and their lives were taken by someone’s careless actions,” said Wilson.
According to police, an alleged drunk driver veered onto the shoulder, hitting and killing both men. The deadly crash happened just two days before Geoffrey would have celebrated his 33rd birthday. He was also prepared to start a new chapter of his life, settling down in Colorado. Dion was planning to move with him as well.
“It’s just really, really upsetting that that’s how we lost them when they had so much more to give to this world,” said Wilson.
Wilson said his brother was many things, including an avid anime fan, full of joy and goofy. He said Geoffrey loved anything that had to do with the outdoors, whether it be camping, biking, or longboarding and the thought of spending his first Thanksgiving without him is a hard pill to swallow.
“This it’s going to be the worst Thanksgiving I’ve ever been a part of. This will be the first Thanksgiving I’ve ever had without my brother,” said Wilson.
He hopes as people make their plans this weekend, they consider how their choice to get behind the wheel after drinking could change countless lives forever.
“It only takes one time to get behind the wheel and make that mistake and ultimately, it doesn’t just affect one family it affects your family as well,” said Wilson. “We don’t want people losing loved ones, especially around the holiday season. That’s the worst time to lose a loved one.”
“Every year throughout the year, especially around the holidays, we see a spike in drunk driving crashes,” said Young. “It’s very important that again, we get folks home safely.”
Nationwide, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the U.S. Department of Transportation, from 2015 to 2019, 135 drivers involved in fatal crashes on Thanksgiving Eve were alcohol-impaired, and over the entire Thanksgiving holiday period, nearly 800 people died in alcohol-impaired crashes.
Wilson doesn’t want another family to be included in those statistics this holiday season. He said he is grateful to see IMPD adding additional patrols and that the DUI Unit will be on the streets working to keep people safe. He also reminds the choice to keep others safe starts with your own actions.
“You know you’re gonna go out and drink. That’s the one thing that really kind of irritates me is that you know you’re going out to have alcoholic beverages, like you know what those do to you, you understand The consequences of what happens, but you still decide to get behind the wheel,” he said.
‘I know there’s a lot of people out there that might think, ‘oh I only had a few I’m good to go.’ That mindset right there is what gets people killed,” said Wilson. “The risk is not worth the reward of trying to get home when you’re drunk and it’s just not worth it.”
IMPD asks anyone who sees any suspicious or criminal activity, including a suspected drunk driver, to give their 911 dispatch center a call and remain at a safe distance from the vehicle while providing any information on the vehicle, if you can.
“We want folks to feel safe. We want folks to get home safely,” said Young.
Wilson also wants to encourage people to get involved in the conversation of preventing drunk driving.
He said his family has become involved in the Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) organization and that it not only provides victim services, but also services that work on preventing drunk and drugged driving, and preventing underage drinking.
Wilson said with every person that can help share the message and dangers of drunk or drugged driving, it could be one more life saved — one more family that won’t have to mourn the loss of a loved one this holiday season.
“It only takes one time to mess up. It only takes one time to not see that red light and slip through it. It takes one time to take that curb a little too fast and now you roll your car, now your mom has to hear that call that you were killed in an accident because you were impaired,” said Wilson.