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Bartenders, safety experts say don't mix alcohol and driving on Thanksgiving

'Blackout Wednesday,' the day before Thanksgiving, is a big drinking day. The Great Lost Bear and $3 Dewey's in Portland both say they are prepared for large crowds.

PORTLAND, Maine — According to AAA's offices in Portland, driving at night during the week of Thanksgiving has a four times higher chance of a fatal collision related to alcohol compared to the rest of the year. 

The surge in intoxicated drivers could be attributed to people visiting their hometowns and hanging out with longtime family members and friends, Tom Baran, a driver safety instructor at AAA, said. 

"If you feel buzzed, you are buzzed. Get a friend to drive you home. People need to look out for each other," Baran said. "Be that friend. If you see someone at the bar, take their keys, [and] make sure they get home safely."

Baran used to work for the York County Sheriff's Department and said he's had to knock on doors to tell families a loved one isn't coming home.

"It's very impactful, out of all the things I've done in my career. It's so devastating to another family member that someone is not coming home due to a traffic crash," he said. 

Baran added that if you can't have a designated driver, then use a rideshare app to go home. If you live in a rural area in Maine where you can't use a rideshare app, then see if you can sleep at a friend's home if they're hosting you. 

"It's sitting there and talking about the consequences of what happens. It's better than having a conversation or a sad conversation later," Baran said.

Bars are preparing for the holiday surge by ordering enough food to last the four-day weekend. 

At The Great Lost Bear in Portland, Mike Dickson, co-owner, he said his staff is trained to intervene if someone drinks too much.

"In most cases, we can spot it from a mile away. Every component of it is detected before they sit down," Dickson said.

Dickson added that his location along Forest Avenue hasn't seen a lot of people get out of hand.

"I think people in general have been really good and responsible," Dickson said.

In Portland's Old Port, where bars are much closer together, servers at $3 Dewey's said they're prepared with security and plenty of staffing.

"Going out for drinks, that's fun and everything. But you need to have something planned for after the drinking, that's either Ubering or just not drinking and driving," Danielle Brox, a server, said.

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