Impaired driving continues to drive fatality rates during the Christmas and New Year's holiday period.
The National Safety Council provided its annual estimate, writing in a statement that 115 people will die in transportation accidents during Christmas travel and a possible 163 Americans over New Year's.
Lorraine Martin, NSC president and CEO, reminded American travelers to be cautious, saying "Making sure all holiday travelers arrive at their destinations safely should be at the top of our to-do lists. That means buckling up, slowing down, avoiding distractions and driving sober. Arriving alive is the best way to start a new year and a new decade."
The Christmas holiday period begins at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 24, and ends at 11:59 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 25. The New Year’s holiday period begins at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 31, and ends at 11:59 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 1.
According to the NSC, an additional 13,100 people may be seriously injured in crashes over the Christmas holiday period, while 18,600 may be seriously injured during New Year's.
Impaired driving continues to be a major crash factor during the holidays. During the 2018 ChristmasDay holiday period, 37% of fatal crashes involved alcohol; that rose to 39% for the New Year’s holiday period, according to the NSC.
The organization credited seat belts for the lower injury and fatality count, stating that estimates would be "significantly higher" were it not for the motor vehicle safety feature.
The NSC recommends the following precautions for drivers:
- Designate a sober driver or arrange alternate transportation; impairment begins with the first drink
- Understand how drugs, including opioids, affect your ability to drive safely; visit nsc.org/rxpainkillers to learn more
- Avoid distracted driving, even hands-free
- Get plenty of sleep and take regular breaks to avoid fatigue
- Sign a New Driver Deal with teen drivers at DriveitHOME
- Learn about your vehicle’s safety systems and how to use them at MyCarDoesWhat.org
- Check your vehicle for recalls at ChecktoProtect.org