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New Year’s Day Is Deadliest for Drunk Driving Crashes

December 29, 2016

Photo courtesy of IIHS.
Photo courtesy of IIHS.

Jan. 1 is the deadliest day on average for alcohol-related crashes involving a motor vehicle, pedestrian, or bicyclist, according to a new analysis from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

IIHS researchers analyzed the five most recent years of available fatal crash data. They discovered that every New Year’s Day an average of 70 lives were lost in crashes where at least one driver, pedestrian, or bicyclist had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher.

Overall, Jan. 1 saw an average of 113 crash deaths. Of these, 62% were due to alcohol impairment. That’s nearly double the overall impairment rate of 35% during the 2011-15 period, IIHS said.

Jan. 1 also is the deadliest day for occupants of cars, minivans, pickup trucks, and SUVs. Across the five-year study period, an average of 83 lives were lost in passenger vehicle crashes on New Year’s Day. In comparison, an average of 59 people died in passenger vehicle crashes on any given day during 2011-15. The data in the analysis are from the federal Fatality Analysis Reporting System, an annual census of fatal crashes on U.S. roads.

“Don't get caught up in the levity of celebrations and forget common sense. Plan your ride home before the party starts to minimize your risk and mark a safe start to 2017,” advised Joe Nolan, IIHS senior vice president for vehicle research.

It’s not just drivers who need to be cautious, IIHS stressed. Although pedestrians and bicyclists are at risk of being struck by impaired drivers, they also are at risk when they have been overindulging themselves. In 2015, 46% of pedestrians and 36% of bicyclists age 16 and older killed in crashes between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. had BACs at or above 0.08%.

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