According to a report by the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA), there were an alarming 6.1 million police reported vehicle accidents in the United States in 2014, resulting in an alarming 2.3 million injuries and 32,675 fatalities. While these numbers demonstrate a 25 percent decrease in the number of fatalities since 2005, and a 13 percent decrease in injuries, early information from the first half of 2015 indicates estimated fatalities to be a disturbing 8.1 percent higher than that same period last year.
During the 2015 Christmas and New Year’s holiday season, more than 95 million individuals will share the road as they travel long distances to join family and friends in holiday celebrations. Such an influx in traffic combined with other characteristics of the holiday season will raise the risk for vehicle accidents, and unfortunately, an estimated 28,000 Americans will become seriously injured in car accidents, and another 250 will die.
Why are There So Many Vehicle Accidents During the Holiday Season?
There are numerous contributing factors to why there are so many vehicle accidents during the period surrounding Christmas and New Year’s Day.
- According to the NHTSA, there were 9,967 fatalities in 2014 that were caused by alcohol impaired drivers, accounting for an astounding 31 percent of all vehicle fatalities for that year. Alcohol consumption tends to rise during the holidays as many people participate in festive celebrations that include alcohol. It is no surprise, then, that the number of alcohol related accidents shoots up as well. In 2011, for example, an estimated 35 percent of vehicle fatalities that occurred on Christmas Day involved an alcohol impaired driver. Additionally, between the years of 2007 and 2011, approximately 42 percent of traffic deaths that occurred during the New Year’s Day period were caused by drinking and driving.
- Adverse weather conditions play a role in the number of accidents during the holidays. Although hazardous weather often causes drivers to stay home, reducing the number of vehicles on the road, those who do brave the winter weather are at a much higher risk for becoming involved in an accident due to slippery road conditions.
- Increases in drivers who are traveling long distances to see family and friends raises the risk for drowsy driving. In 2014, an estimated 846 individuals lost their lives in vehicle accidents related to drowsy driving, accounting for approximately 2.6 percent of all fatalities.