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How Northeast Ohio communities are hoping to combat drunk driving on Thanksgiving Eve

From ride sharing options to leaving your car overnight, some communities are giving people options to get home safely.

OHIO, USA — While some people spend the night before Thanksgiving preparing side dishes and checking on the turkey, others hit the town. As one of the biggest bar nights of the year, some communities are providing resources and making changes to ensure people get home safely on Thanksgiving Eve.

Last year, the Ohio State Highway Patrol made 303 arrests for impaired driving. On Wednesday night, they’re ramping up patrols to keep drunk drivers off the roads.

Brett Zubeck has been in the restaurant industry for over 20 years. As executive chef at Sol in downtown Willoughby, he knows how busy the night before Thanksgiving can be.

“This is kind of where everybody hangs out with their friends, catches up with everybody and you know, has a couple of cocktails has a good meal,” Zubeck said. “You know, it’s a party atmosphere.”

Zubeck said on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, things typically start to pick up any time after three, and especially around happy hour. At Sol, there will be a band at 8 p.m., with festivities continuing into the night.

“It is a very busy night, usually it’s time where everybody’s kind of getting home from their family,” he said. “They want to come out, they’re about to go out to dinner and hang out with their family.”

A few blocks away at The Wild Goose, partner Brendan Kearney also anticipated a late night.

“It’s the busiest bar night of the year for us,” Kearney said. “We have a great time, we have a DJ here tonight, it will be lively. We do it responsibly, but we have a good time with it. Downtown Willoughby as a whole is great for an event like this because we have 12 or 13 restaurants and bars down here.”

To try to reduce drunk driving, the Willoughby Police Department is lifting parking tickets for the night and encouraging people to leave their cars behind if they shouldn’t be driving.

“Typically around 3:30 in the morning officers will start issuing parking cites to cars left on the street or in the public city lots in downtown Willoughby,” said Detective Sergeant Chris Scozzie. “Tonight, no parking tickets will be issued for those areas. The usual other spots, fire lanes and that type of thing, fire hydrants, still apply. But we want people to make good choices at the end of the night and find a ride.”

Scozzie said on Wednesday night, people can park their cars on streets in downtown Willoughby as well as in public lots and not get a ticket. While it’s the city’s first time lifting the overnight parking ban like this, he said they may continue doing this on Thanksgiving eve moving forward.

“If you don’t feel like you can make it home, if you feel like you’re on the borderline, make the phone call,” he said. “Call family, call friends, call one of the transport services and get yourself home safely so you can be there the next day with your family.”

“Our biggest thing is don’t drink and drive, and the city is making that a lot easier on us this year with the lifting of the parking ban,” said Kearney.

In Summit County, the prosecutor’s office is teaming up with ride sharing service Lyft for their “Arrive Alive” campaign. From 6 p.m. Wednesday until noon on Friday, 300 riders can use the code “SUMMIT1121” to get $20 off their ride within Summit County. The director of communications for the Summit County Prosecutor’s Office said since launching the campaign back in 2018 (originally with cab companies), about 2,000 people have received rides.

The Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Office suggested calling your local municipalities to learn of any options or ride alternatives available to you in your community.

“When you’re doing the holidays and stuff like that, we have a tendency to forget and not be responsible. We definitely sometimes overindulge,” said Zubeck. “Literally remember the holidays is about being safe. The last thing anyone wants to do is get that phone call super late at night.”

*Editor's Note: The video in the player above is from previous report. 

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