HOLIDAY DRUNK DRIVING CRASHES REMAIN PROMINENT ISSUE
How The Holiday Season Affects Drunk Driving
The role that alcohol consumption plays in the holiday season is often overlooked, and, unfortunately, this also contributes to an increase in drunk driving accidents. The National Safety Council (NSC) has tracked holiday-related drunk driving crashes since 1982, and while these rates have decreased over the last 40 years, it still remains a prominent issue.
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Impaired Driving Statistics
In the most recent NSC data, each observed holiday period had a substantial number of fatalities involving impaired drivers. Among the end-of-year holidays, the Christmas period (extending from 6 pm on Christmas Eve to midnight on December 26) had the highest rate, with 38% of fatalities resulting from a drunk driving incident. Other holidays had similar rates:
- Thanksgiving: 28% of traffic fatalities involved an alcohol-impaired driver
- New Year’s Day: 36% of traffic fatalities involved an alcohol-impaired driver
This isn’t just unique to the fall/winter holidays. Independence Day sees the highest rate among the observed periods, with 41% of traffic fatalities involving alcohol-impaired drivers. Other summer holidays see similar rates.
So what about holiday periods make these incidents more likely? Here are some of the most
influential factors that contribute.
3 Factors That Influence Holiday Drunk Driving
Holiday Parties and Other Gatherings
Whether it’s an office party, a friend’s get-together, or a family reunion, holiday gatherings are often times when people drink more alcohol than they usually would. This is especially true for those who don’t often drink and feel the need to “catch up” with others.
Alcohol consumption is often seen as a social lubricant, making it easier for people to let loose and enjoy themselves. This can lead to people underestimating how much they’ve had to drink and making poor decisions like getting behind the wheel when they shouldn’t. If attending any holiday festivity where alcohol will be served, it's important to have a sober ride home if you plan to drink.
Although holiday travel saw a 43% increase in 2021 following a year of lockdowns, this is a trend that has been consistent for decades. Every year, more than 100 million Americans make travel plans for the holidays for distances of 50 miles or greater. With more people on the roads, accident rates are bound to increase.
The holidays are often seen as a time of joy and happiness, but they can also be a very stressful time for many people. Stress levels can be through the roof, whether it’s the added pressure of buying gifts within a budget, preparing large meals, or dealing with family members that you don’t always see eye to eye with.
Unfortunately, some people deal with this stress by turning to alcohol. This can lead to even more impaired driving as people try to make their way home after drinking too much. If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed this holiday season, it’s important to take a step back and find other ways to cope besides drinking.
Tips For Drunk Driving Prevention During The Holidays
With all of this said, there are still ways that we can prevent drunk driving accidents from happening. If you’re attending any holiday gatherings where alcohol will be present, be sure to follow these tips:
- Plan ahead and designate a sober driver before the event starts
- If you don’t have a designated driver, ask a friend or family member for a ride home
- Use a rideshare service like Uber or Lyft
- Take public transportation if it’s available
- Spend the night at the event location if possible
If you see someone who has had too much to drink and is about to drive, take their keys away and help them find a safe way home. Remember, drunk driving is 100% preventable, and we can all do our part to make the roads safer.