Thanksgiving Eve drinking festivities — playfully dubbed “Blackout Wednesday” — have the possibility of turning dangerous for those celebrating with too much alcohol.

Max Van Ness, 25, of West Creek, said he has seen one too many accidents involving alcohol with his work as an EMT and volunteer firefighter. So for the last two years, he has pledged to give back and try to stop injuries and deaths from happening during the Thanksgiving holiday.

Van Ness, owner of Southern End Landscaping, began using his fleet of Ford pickup trucks last Thanksgiving to pick up intoxicated bar patrons and transport them safely to their homes.

Van Ness just wants to give back and make sure the people in his community are safe, he said. This is something the local business owner plans to offer each year, he said.

“I didn’t plan on everyone calling for a ride this year, but after posting it on my Facebook page, a lot of people started calling,” Van Ness said.

Last year, Van Ness transported only a handful of bar patrons, but this year his trucks carried 42 people safely home from their local watering hole, he said.

Southern End Landscaping trucks picked up drinkers from as far south as the Mystic Islands Casino bar in Little Egg Harbor and as far north as Toms River, he said.

“As we were driving people home, I witnessed about a dozen car stops where people were being given sobriety tests,” he said.

Stafford Township Police Department participated in a STOP-DWI program that used additional police officers to conduct an extensive DWI enforcement initiative.

“Police patrols will demonstrate zero tolerance for individuals who are driving while under the influence of drugs and alcohol,” police Chief Joseph Giberson said.

Through the campaign, police plan to target drunken drivers during through the holiday weekend as well as the crackdown that took place Wednesday, Lt. Herman Pharo said.

“There will be additional police patrols, and chances are if you drive drunk at any point this weekend, you will be arrested,” Pharo said.

In 2012, 416 motorists died in traffic crashes nationally during the Thanksgiving Holiday weekend, with 42 percent of them killed in crashes that involved a driver who had a blood alcohol content of .08 or higher, and 60 percent of the passenger vehicle occupants who were killed were not wearing their seat belts, according to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Matt Geossroy, 24, of Stafford Township, went to Calloway’s Bar on Route 9 in Staffordville on Wednesday night, but he already had a plan for how he would get home — and he wasn’t driving.

When it was time to go home from the bar, Geossroy called Van Ness.

Geossroy said to drive drunk on the night before Thanksgiving, you’re rolling the dice.

He wasn’t in any condition to drive, he said.

“It was really at no cost to us. It was something that he was offering just so people don’t run into a problem. You’re taking the risk of driving home, and a DWI can change everything in your life and it’s not a slap on the wrist,” he said.

Contact Donna Weaver:

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