An estimated 350 people may lose their lives in traffic crashes over the Christmas holiday and another 400 may die in collisions over the New Year’s holiday, according to the National Safety Council’s latest projections.
The Christmas holiday period is defined as beginning at 6 p.m. Friday, Dec. 23 and concluding at 11:59 p.m. Monday, Dec. 26. The New Year’s holiday starts at 6 p.m. Friday, Dec. 30 and concludes at 11:59 p.m. Monday, Jan. 2.
Experts agree that impaired driving is one key factor that boosts collisions, injuries, and fatalities over the holidays. Nationwide, alcohol-impaired fatalities in 2020 represented 30% of the total traffic fatalities.
But during the winter holidays those numbers rise. For example, in 2020, 39% of the deaths over the Christmas holiday and 49% of fatalities during the New Year’s holiday involved an alcohol-impaired driver. Moreover, other drugs such as opioids, marijuana, and some over-the-counter medicines can impair driving by causing drowsiness, altering visual functions, and affecting mental judgment and motor skills.
In fact, new data verifies that drivers are imbibing in substances that impair their ability to safely drive. Alarmingly, a study published this week by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, of the seriously injured road users who went to one of seven participating trauma centers following a crash between 2019 and 2021, 54.2% tested positive for alcohol or other drugs.
December is National Impaired Driving Prevention Month. It’s a good time to remind your fleet drivers to be extra vigilant about practicing defensive driving skills. Unfortunately, far too many motorists on the road will fail to have a sober designated driver take them to and from their celebrations. Now is the time to caution your commercial drivers about this ongoing problem.