Holiday seasons and weekends are a time when many families are packing their bags and preparing to visit out of town family or friends. Unfortunately, an increase in travel also potentially means an increase in auto accidents and fatalities. According to the National Highway Traffic Administration (NHTSA), this is exactly what happens. The federal agency has put together a list of the top 6 most dangerous holidays for travel.
1. Memorial Day
Contrary to popular belief, New Year’s is seemingly not the number one holiday with the most motor-vehicle fatalities. According to the most recent data available, the NHTSA says the stats show Memorial Day weekend is the most dangerous. In 2009, there were 473 traffic fatalities during the three-day-holiday weekend and 42 percent of those fatalities involved alcohol.
2. New Year’s
New Year’s is typically associated with lots of partying and alcohol, so it’s no surprise that this event is at the top of the list of the most deadly holidays. According to the NHTSA, over 460 auto-accident fatalities occurred in 2009 and 40 percent of those were attributed to alcohol.
Coming in third place is the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Approximately 411 auto-accident fatalities happened in 2009 with 34 percent of those involving alcohol. One reason Thanksgiving falls high on the list could be because the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving Day is commonly known as a party day for many Americans including college students.
4. Fourth of July
Independence Day is the fourth most deadly holiday for American drivers. In 2009, about 410 individuals died in auto accidents with 40 percent of those accidents occurring as the result of an alcohol-impaired driver.
5. Labor Day
Coming in at number five is the Labor Day holiday weekend. This holiday is typically the “last party” before the fall season hits and many students return to school. Approximately 360 people died during the Labor Day weekend in 2009 with 38 percent of those deaths alcohol related.
This year, AAA, a nonprofit organization that offers travel related services, predicts there will be more drivers on the roads over the Labor Day weekend than in the past two years. Approximately 30 million travelers are projected to take to the roads; whereas only 2.5 million travelers are projected to travel by plane.
One reason may be because of the huge price tag attached to airfares this year. AAA says that there is a 13 percent average increase in the cost of a plane ticket this year from 2010. Another reason, according to Brad Roeber, regional president of AAA Chicago, is that individuals and families are choosing to travel by vehicle because of the recent decline in gas prices; however albeit temporary.
In 2009, there were 262 auto-accident fatalities that occurred during the Christmas holiday-including Christmas Eve. Approximately 37 percent of those accidents involved alcohol.
The NHTSA says that particular outside factors such as the day of the week the holiday falls and whether bad weather like rain, sleet or snow is involved also play a part in determining how many car accidents and fatalities occur on each holiday.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood says that states are taking proactive measures to combat the problems associated with drunk or careless drivers, particularly during holiday weekends, but unfortunately “the numbers tell us we have more to do.”