Reverend offers sobering reminder to not drive drunk this holiday weekend

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The night before Thanksgiving is notorious for being one of the deadliest times of the year on the roads. Between 2012 and 2016, more than 800 people died in alcohol-related crashes on and around what’s known as “Blackout Wednesday” and the Thanksgiving weekend, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

It’s a difficult time of year for Rev. Joseph Escobar and his family. The pastor of Our Lady of the Rosary Church in Providence lost his younger brother in a drunk-driving crash on Thanksgiving Eve 23 years ago.

He hopes sharing his painful story can help to save someone else’s life.

“The experience of the Happy Thanksgiving with the family gathered around the table I no longer have,” Escobar said Wednesday.

On that tragic night in 1994, Escobar’s brother had been out drinking with friends and never made it home. He was 31, and left behind a wife and three children.

“In the police report it said speed and alcohol were factors, and he wasn’t wearing a seat belt,” Escobar recalled.

“Use your seat belt. Believe me, in 20 years of law enforcement I’ve seen it save many, many lives,” said R.I. State Police Sgt. Charles LeValley.

LeValley says state and local police will be out in full force cracking down on drunk drivers, hoping to make this year’s holiday weekend a safe and happy one for all.

“Let’s get home to see your loved ones,” he said. “Don’t take someone’s loved one out on their way to see their family.”

“All of these statistics are people, and all of these people their actions have had an impact on their families, their friends,” Escobar added. “I mean, my life has been forever altered because of that, because of what happened in that one instance.”