Black Wednesday

The English vernacular has accumulated a collection of so-called “black” days in the past decades. Black Monday and Black Tuesday both occurred after Thursday, October 24, 1929, known as Black Thursday—the day on which the stock market crash that triggered the Great Depression began. More recently, Monday, October 19, 1987, became known as Black Monday when stock markets around the globe crashed, with the Dow Jones plummeting more than 22 percent.

Party night

Black Wednesday—one of the biggest “party nights” of the year—is a popular term among U.S. law enforcement officers, bartenders, and the media, and refers to the night before Thanksgiving Day.* With college students home for the holiday and a large percentage of the workforce off the next day, it isn’t difficult to see why Black Wednesday evening is a prime time for revelry.

The week before Thanksgiving in 2013, the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) released NHTSA 36-13, a consumer advisory reminding motorists to take safety precautions while driving over the holiday weekend. The advisory described Thanksgiving weekend as one of the busiest travel times of the year, representing a significantly increased risk of a serious or fatal car crash. In 2012, a total of 416 fatalities occurred over the extended four-and-one-half-day holiday weekend. Some notable statistics regarding those fatalities include the percentage of victims who neglected to wear seat belts (more than 60 percent) with 42 percent of those individuals killed in a crash involving a drunk driver.

To examine the occurrence of Black Wednesday motor vehicle driver-related injuries in the National Trauma Data Bank® (NTDB®) research dataset for 2013, admissions medical records were searched for the 12-hour period using arrival date and time that occurred between 7:00 pm Wednesday, November 27, 2013, and 7:00 am Thursday, November 28, 2013. Records were then searched using the International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision, Clinical Modification diagnoses codes. Specifically searched were records that contained the following external cause of injury codes (E-code): E810–E819 (motor vehicle crashes) with a post-decimal value of zero for driver of a car or three for driver of a motorcycle.

A total of 986 records were found for this 12-hour period; 885 records contained a discharge status, including 531 patients discharged to home, 215 to acute care/rehab, and 39 sent to skilled nursing facilities; 100 died. (See Figure 1.) Of these patients, 65.2 percent were male, on average 38.2 years of age, had a typical hospital length of stay of 7.9 days, an intensive care unit length of stay of 7.3 days, an average injury severity score of 17.3, and were on the ventilator for an average of seven days. A total of 666 were tested for alcohol and more than half (54.4 percent) tested positive. Of the 288 tested for illicit drugs, one-third (33.3 percent) tested positive. (See Figure 2.)

Figure 1. Hospital discharge status

Figure 1. Hospital discharge status

Figure 2. Alcohol and drug testing percentages

Figure 2. alcohol and drug testing percentages

Give thanks

For travel guidelines to stay safe during the Thanksgiving holiday, refer to the NHTSA 36-13 consumer advisory referenced earlier in this column. If one plans to go out on Black Wednesday to celebrate, be responsible in your actions so the following morning one is thankful for more than just surviving the previous evening.

Throughout the year, we will be highlighting NTDB data through brief monthly reports in the Bulletin. The NTDB Annual Report 2014 is available as a PDF file on the ACS website. In addition, information is available on the website regarding how to obtain NTDB data for more detailed study. To submit your trauma center’s data, contact Melanie L. Neal, Manager, NTDB, at


Statistical support for this article has been provided by Chrystal Caden-Price, Data Analyst, NTDB.

*Eltagouri M. Suburban police prepare for holiday crowds, traffic. Chicago Tribune. November 26, 2014. Available at: Accessed September 18, 2015.

NHTSA. Consumer advisory: NHTSA reminds motorists traveling this Thanksgiving holiday to take safety precautions, especially in inclement weather. Available at: November 27, 2013. Accessed August 31, 2015.

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