Americans are preparing to celebrate another holiday season as the year draws to a close. While the holidays can be a great opportunity to gather with family and friends, they may not be the safest time to be traveling, with the National Safety Council estimating that there could be as many as 278 holiday traffic deaths this year.
278 Holiday Traffic Deaths, 31,700 Serious Injuries
The Itasca-based National Safety Council estimates that 115 people may be killed on the road during the Christmas driving period, which runs from 6:00 p.m. on Dec. 24 through 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 25. An additional 163 holiday traffic deaths are expected during the New Year’s driving period, which runs from 6:00 p.m. on Dec. 31 through 11:59 p.m. on Jan. 1. The Council also estimates that 13,100 people may be seriously injured in car accidents over the Christmas driving period, while another 18,600 may be seriously injured over New Year’s.
In predicting holiday traffic deaths, the National Safety Council draws upon data from previous years, individual state fatal car accident statistics, and the calendar itself. Because both Christmas and New Year’s Day fall in the middle of the week in 2019, there will likely be fewer crashes, since the holidays are not prolonged by being on or adjacent to a weekend day.
The Council’s warnings come as AAA estimates that 115.6 million Americans will be traveling between Dec. 22 and Jan. 1. This is a 3.9 percent increase over last year and the most since AAA began tracking holiday travel. Nearly 105 million of these people will be traveling by car. Driving is the most dangerous form of transportation, with the highest death rate based on fatalities per passenger mile.
Alcohol a Major Factor
Alcohol is a major factor in holiday traffic deaths. In 2018, 37 percent of fatal crashes during the Christmas driving period involved alcohol and 39 percent were alcohol-related during the New Year’s driving period. In comparison, the average yearly percentage of fatal crashes involving alcohol is 29 percent.
“Because there is a lot of alcohol consumed on all holidays, we do see an increase in the fatalities that involve at least one drunk driver,” said Ken Kolosh, the National Safety Council’s manager of statistics. However, he noted that the percentage of alcohol-related traffic deaths has fallen overall.
How You Can Stay Safe During the Holidays
The National Safety Council offers a number of tips for staying safe on the road this holiday season. One of the simplest and most effective methods is wearing a seatbelt. The Council estimates that seatbelts will save 245 lives over Christmas and New Year’s. It urges everybody in every seating position to buckle up and make sure that car seats are properly installed.
In addition to wearing a seatbelt, the National Safety Council also recommends that motorists:
- Designate a sober driver or arrange alternate transportation.
- Understand how opioids and other drugs could impair your ability to drive.
- Avoid distracted driving.
- Get enough sleep and take breaks to reduce fatigue.
- Learn about your vehicle’s safety systems.
- Check your vehicle for recalls.
We hope that you and your loved ones stay safe this holiday season. Happy holidays from your friends at GWC Injury Lawyers!