The Florida Highway Patrol has announced stepped up enforcement for the Thanksgiving holiday period from 12:01 a.m. Wednesday to midnight Sunday.
They'll be ticketing motorists Driving Under the Influence of Turkey.
Well, they don't put it exactly that way, but they do expect highway dangers from sleepy drivers. And turkey, the traditional Thanksgiving main course, makes people sleepy.
Turkey is high in an amino acid called tryptophan, which the body converts to niacin, which, in turn, helps produce the calming chemical we call serotonin.
Serotonin is remarkable. It hangs around the brain and calms even the most nervous new relative at the Thanksgiving feast. It is also essential to sleep.
That sets up a deadly scenario for Thursday's Thanksgiving celebration.
Tired drivers arrive at a relative's home only to face a huge feast of turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, buttered corn on the cob, black-eyed peas, sweet potato casserole, mashed potatoes and gravy, croissants and glass of red wine. Then the pecan pie arrives with a scoop of pumpkin ice cream on top.
Following the feast, the new wide-screen, Hi-Res television is turned on, tuned to the football game of the day. Conversation dulls as play after numbing play unfolds on the TV. You settle deeply into the recliner. Referees review on-field calls frequently. Commercials drone on about the side effects of prescription drugs you can't buy. Closeups show people wearing turkey beaks in the stands. Your eyes glaze over.
Your body is telling you that nothing would be as welcome as a nap.
But you're with company. How would it look to your in-laws in you nodded off?
Actually, the entire meal you just consumed is sending you to la-la land. It's very high in carbohydrates and your body diverts a lot of blood to digest this mess. Fact: The average Thanksgiving meal has 3,000 calories and 229 grams of fat (that's what you might need in four days). The wine, of course, adds a sedative effect.
By the time the marching band hits the field at half-time, you're fighting just to stay upright. Should you attempt to drive a vehicle at this time, you would be impaired. You would be guilty of Driving Under the Influence of Turkey (the FHP advice — don't DUIT).
And remember the FHP is out there. They're foregoing turkey, looking for you, along with people who speed, tailgate, and drive without being belted up. If you stay alert on the way home, you can help the FHP by reporting others drivers under the influence by calling *FHP from a cell phone.
Do take some turkey home with you. Slice it up, refrigerate it and make sandwiches just before bed time. On an empty stomach, you'll make lots of sleep-inducing serotonin and have a good night's sleep.
- Robert Bowden