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Is the Winter Holiday Season the Most Dangerous Time of Year for Drivers?

Some people refuse to leave home on New Year’s Eve because they are concerned that there will be too many drunk drivers and reckless drivers on the roads. Is their concern justified? The answer depends on how you look at it.

The National Safety Council’s Safety + Health magazine recently analyzed driving accident statistics for six major holidays, including the three major holidays of winter – Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day.


In two major categories – total traffic deaths per day and total traffic deaths per day involving alcohol impairment – the NSC found that Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day actually all ranked in the bottom half. The summer holidays – Fourth of July, Memorial Day and Labor Day – took up the top half.

According to the NSC, which based its rankings on crash data from 2008 to 2012, the holiday rankings were:



With that said, New Year’s Day still had the highest average percentage of alcohol-impaired traffic deaths at 43 percent, according to the NSC data, while the four-day Thanksgiving period had the highest number of motor vehicle-related fatalities of any holiday period with 416.

Meanwhile, the New York Times, citing a study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), found New Year’s Day to be the most dangerous holiday for drunk driving, with half of all fatal crashes involving a driver who was considered to be drunk (a .08 blood-alcohol content or higher).

A spokesman for the IIHS told the Times that New Year’s Day is also “the most hazardous day for pedestrians,” with an average of 22 pedestrians dying in collisions with vehicles each January 1.

Be Safe During the Holidays


Regardless of whether the winter holidays are, statistically, more or less dangerous than other holiday periods, the fact remains that this is a time of year when many people imbibe as part of holiday celebrations. Unfortunately, they also get behind the wheel of their cars.

As one emergency room doctor has explained, the winter holidays present a type of “perfect storm.” Holiday parties provide the temptation for people to drink and drive, and those parties are usually held at night, when visibility is reduced and snow and ice make road conditions dangerous

This is why organizations such as MADD and Stop DWI New York wage aggressive awareness campaigns during the winter holidays.

In its kickoff to last year’s “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” winter holiday crackdown on drunk and drugged driving, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) reported that 41 percent of the traffic deaths that occur around the New Year’s holiday and Christmas holiday (37 percent) involve alcohol-impaired drivers – compared to 31 percent over the course of a full year.

From December 13 to January 1, 2102, according to the DOT, 830 lives were lost in drunk driving crashes.

Stay clear from the “perfect storm.” If you are heading out to a party this holiday season, make sure that you don’t drink and drive. Instead, use a designated driver, call a taxi or take public transportation.

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