Many Americans look forward to the winter holiday season as a time to gather with friends and family and celebrate long-standing traditions. For some people, these celebrations also mean indulging in a drink or two to toast the season. For others, the season is an invitation to drink to excess. The common holiday combination of drinking alcohol and traveling to the homes of friends and family members—sometimes great distances—proves to be deadly year after year. We share some frightening statistics about drunk driving during the holidays and some tips to ensure that you and your family avoid these dangers.
More People Drink and Drive Over the Holidays
Every year, the statistics tell us the same thing. More people drink and drive on certain nights between Thanksgiving Eve and New Year’s Day than throughout the rest of the year and more people die in drunk driving crashes. According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), approximately 29 percent of highway deaths throughout the year are related to alcohol. During the holiday season, however, drunk driving fatality rates increase as follows:
- 35 percent over the Thanksgiving holiday
- 41 percent on the days surrounding Christmas Day
- 58 percent on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day
- 40 percent throughout the holiday season overall
These significant increases mean that between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, 1,200 people will die and 25,000 will be injured in alcohol-related traffic crashes. More and more, the day before Thanksgiving is becoming one of the biggest drinking days of the year, especially among college students who are either still on campus or have reunited with old friends back home. This creates a dangerous situation as families typically travel on that day to reach their destinations in time for Turkey Day.
How to Stay Safe This Holiday Season
Getting the message out about the dangers of drinking and driving is one way to try to reduce drunk driving fatalities during the holidays, but you cannot control the behavior of others. That is why it is important that you take the following steps to protect yourself and your family over the holidays:
- Choose your travel days and times carefully. When planning your holiday travel, try to avoid the most dangerous travel times. When you are out on the road on the nights before Thanksgiving and Christmas, you will undoubtedly be sharing the road with more drunk drivers than if you are able to travel in the morning of those days. Do not wait until the last minute to depart for your destination. Take an extra day off work if necessary to ensure a safe arrival.
- Be alert for drunk drivers and report them. If you have to be on the road at peak drunk driving times, watch for drivers who are speeding or driving slowly, struggling to stay in a lane, or braking excessively. These are common signs of drunk driving. Call 911 to report the driver, giving the operator the location, description of the vehicle, and license plate number if possible.
- Plan ahead if you plan to drink. If you know you will be drinking at a dinner party or restaurant during the holidays (or any time for that matter), plan ahead by designating a sober driver or by taking a cab or Uber to and from your destination.
- Be a responsible host. If you are hosting a social gathering during the holidays, be sure to offer plenty of food and alcohol-free beverages and be prepared to allow drunk guests to spend the night or have a plan for getting guests who should not be driving home.
- Monitor your high school and college-age children. Whether it is Thanksgiving Eve or Christmas Eve, monitor your teens as you are preparing for the following day. Take the time to ask where they are going and how they plan to get home if they have been drinking. They may try to take advantage of your frantic preparations to sneak out and meet friends, so you must stay one step ahead.
Have a Safe and Happy Holiday Season!
At Keller & Keller, we hope your holiday season is full of friends, family, and fun. While we will be here for you if you are the victim of a drunk driver, we sincerely hope we do not have to be!