Massachusetts police ‘cautiously optimistic’ that Thanksgiving eve won’t have normal widespread drunken-driving issues

Police are “cautiously optimistic” that Thanksgiving eve, which is usually one of the biggest drinking and drunken driving nights of the year, will be quieter in what would be a rare silver lining of the coronavirus pandemic.

“We’re not expecting it to be that big,” said Methuen Police Chief Joseph Solomon, saying the bars are closed, which should help keep down drunken driving, too. But, he said, “We’re really more concerned about parties … We’re fully staffed and ready to respond.”

The levels of concern vary from city to city about Wednesday night house parties in violation of Gov. Charlie Baker’s assembly orders as restaurants serving alcohol aren’t allowed to be open late amid the pandemic.

Chief Brian Kyes of Chelsea, who said he’s not expecting many parties, said the lack of high school football games this year likely will mean fewer people out partying the night before.

“I’m hoping and I’m cautiously optimistic that most folks are going to heed the warnings,” Kyes said of the various coronavirus advisories.

Activists continue to worry about drunken driving on Wednesday night. Mary Kate Depamphilis of MADD said the night before Thanksgiving “is the deadliest on our roadways,” and urged revelers to “make 2020 different in that way” — adding she doubts everyone will listen.

“Plan for a sober, non-drinking driver,” Depamphilis said. “Take an Uber or a Lyft. Use public transportation. In a time where so many are struggling, we don’t want to see any drunk driving deaths this holiday.”

Solomon, the Methuen chief, said if there is a move from bars to house parties, that alone should cut down on people behind the wheel because it’s an environment where more people know each other, and those who are too drunk might have the option of just sleeping it off where they are.

“That may help save a bad accident,” Solomon said.

In Quincy, Police Capt. John Dougan said he’s only heard about events being canceled — not some wave of house parties starting, though big house parties have never been as common in Quincy as they are in other places. And the usual Quincy High-North Quincy High Thanksgiving football game has been scrapped in favor of a fundraiser, so there’s not the same buildup that would lead to the night-before celebrations.

“People seem to be adhering to the the governor’s orders,” Dougan said. “We believe it’s going to be a much quieter night.”

Newton Police also echoed that sentiment in an email, saying the night is usually busy, but they haven’t heard of anything brewing.

Melrose Police Chief Michael Lyle said his department will be ready for anything, but he’s optimistic.

“I think people really understand how serious the virus is,” Lyle said. “We do put on extra vehicles around the holidays, but I don’t anticipate any trouble around Melrose.”

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