6 Deadly Holidays: When High DUI Rates Kill We look forward to upcoming holidays all year round. Hanging out with friends and family, enjoying good food at barbeques, cocktail parties, and beach bonfires…and drinking. Unfortunately, these happy occasions can quickly turn into lifelong tragedies when one person makes the bad decision to get behind the wheel after they’ve had too much to drink. Thousands of people are arrested and cited for drunk driving every year. Many others lose their lives to it. In fact, 2015 saw 10,265 deaths from alcohol-impaired-driving crashes (181 of those deaths were children). Those deaths accounted for one-third of all traffic-related deaths in the U.S. that year. This was an increase of 322 deaths from the year before. You may have heard the term “100 Deadliest Days of Summer” which runs from Memorial Day until the end of Labor Day each year. This time has earned its title, in part, due to the number of holidays within that timeframe coupled with more teen drivers out on the road. During these few months, there is typically an increase of deaths involving teens of 16% per day compared to other days of the year. Drunk driving fatalities accounted for 36% of traffic fatalities during the 2015 holidays, according to the NHTSA. Here is a breakdown of the facts and stats per deadly holiday.
1. New Year’s Day It shouldn’t be surprising that this holiday often ends in the most drunk driving fatalities. However, it may surprise you that it is also one of the deadliest holidays for pedestrians. Alcohol involvement, of either the driver or the pedestrian, was reported in nearly half of pedestrian deaths.
2. Labor Day Marking the end of the “100 Deadliest Days of Summer” is Labor Day weekend. It may be a little surprising that this simple holiday is one of the deadliest in terms of drunk driving accidents, yet it’s true—69% of drivers had a blood alcohol content level of .15 or higher. As far as underage drivers who caused fatalities, 71% were very drunk.
3. Thanksgiving Maybe it’s due to the familial pressures often associated with gathering together during this holiday, but Thanksgiving (and the day before) is a very dangerous holiday for drivers. Thirty-six percent of driving fatalities were due to drinking and 22% of those were drunk teenagers.
4. Memorial Day It’s a little ironic that the holiday where Americans celebrate those who died fighting for our country’s freedom also happens to be one of the deadliest due to drunk drivers. Sixty-four percent of drunk drivers had a BAC of .15 or higher.
5. Independence Day Also falling within the “deadliest days” window is, historically, one of the worst holidays for driving and alcohol-impaired accidents. Most deadly drivers on Independence Day were drunk and a whopping 53% of under-21 drivers who caused fatal accidents were drunk with a BAC of .15 or higher.
6. Christmas It’s supposed to be the happiest time of year, but sadly, this day sees an increase in drunk driving fatalities. Thirty-seven percent of those involved had a BAC of .08-.14 and 63% had a BAC of .15 or higher.
Not-So-Honorable Mention – St. Patrick’s Day No matter how you spin it, if you’re drinking and driving on this holiday, you won’t have the luck of the Irish with you. In 2015, drunk driving claimed 30 lives on this day alone.
What You Can Do Consider sponsoring free cab rides on holidays where people typically have too much to drink. Most major cities across the nation have these programs to help you find opportunities for sponsorship. This can go a long way to help prevent drunk driving. You can also use social media to become a source of information to those who follow you. Remind people to drive responsibly, suggest they avoid peak travel times, and let them know where they can find various community resources available in your area (DUI checkpoints, a safe party guide, DUI attorneys, etc.) and how to access them. Let’s all work together and do our best to enjoy our holidays responsibly and keep them happy occasions.
Bradley Corbett is a criminal defense attorney in San Diego. He graduated from Brigham Young University in Provo Utah in 2004. Later he enrolled at Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego where he participated in a prestigious internship program with the Los Angeles County Public Defender. Since then he has handled over 2,000 cases.