The night before Thanksgiving is known as the biggest party night of the year. Almost a holiday unto itself with a name of its own, Black Wednesday is a night to rival New Year's Eve and St. Patrick's Day for overindulgence in alcohol.
In many communities, extra officers will be on patrol and local officials warn bar owners not to overserve their patrons.
So it's not a coincidence that Cook County this week announced a new DUI Memorial Program. For $150, families of anyone killed in a DUI fatality can purchase a roadside memorial marker to be placed alongside any highway under the county's jurisdiction.
The marker includes a “Please Don’t Drink and Drive” sign and an optional commemorative plaque with the deceased loved one’s name and accident date. The victims of accidents that occurred on or after Jan. 1, 1990 are eligible.
In 2010, 743 people were hurt and 15 died in 2,780 alcohol-related crashes between Wednesday and Sunday of the Thanksgiving holiday, according to the Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists. Throughout the year, 436 people were killed in alcohol-related crashes, which was 47 percent of the 927 total crash fatalities on the year, according to the Secretary of State's office.
The county installed the first memorial sign in mid-October on the anniversary of Oleg Oleinik's death. He died in a DUI-related crash in Glenview in 2008.
The Cook County Department of Highways will install and maintain the marker for two years. A similar program is offered by the State of Illinois.