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IIHS News | June 28, 2016Subscribe

Independence Day ranks highest in average daily crash deaths

ARLINGTON, Va. — On average, more people die in motor vehicle crashes on Independence Day than any other day of the year, an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety analysis of the five most recent years of available fatal crash data indicates. What's driving the trend? Motorcycles and alcohol are both big contributors to the Fourth of July toll.

Each year on the Independence Day holiday in the U.S., an average of 118.4 lives are lost in crashes, making it the most consistently deadly day of the year across the five-year study period. This is 28 more deaths than the overall average daily toll during 2010-14. (The average is calculated by dividing the actual number of July 4 deaths — 592 — by 5.)

The second worst day for crash deaths during 2010-14 was January 1, with an average toll of 118.2 deaths.

Independence Day is by far the deadliest for motorcyclists, with an average of 26 deaths. This compares to the daily average of 12.1 motorcyclist deaths during the study period. New Year's Day is the deadliest for people in passenger vehicles, with 86 deaths on average during 2010-14.

Alcohol is a factor in a greater proportion of crash deaths on both July 4 and January 1. Forty-seven percent of the deaths on July 4 and 62 percent on January 1 involved at least one driver, pedestrian or bicyclist with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of at least 0.08g/dL. The average across all days in these years was 35 percent for deaths in crashes involving alcohol.

"Traveling on a major holiday is risky for many reasons," says Chuck Farmer, the Institute's vice president for research and statistical services. "In general, there are more people on the roads, and drivers may be navigating areas beyond their regular commuting routes. There's a high incidence of alcohol use, which sharply raises the risk of crashing."

He adds, "Motorcyclists have to be especially careful, so wearing a regulation helmet is always a good choice even in states where they aren't required."

On average, crashes claimed the lives of slightly more than 90 people each day during 2010-14.

"While some holidays are associated with more highway deaths, motor vehicle crashes exact a huge toll every single day of the year," Farmer points out.

The data used in the analysis are from the federal Fatality Analysis Reporting System, an annual census of fatal crashes on U.S. roads.

"If every driver buckled up and every motorcyclist wore a helmet, no one was impaired by alcohol, and everyone drove the speed limit, we could make July 4 and every day safer on the road," says Adrian Lund, IIHS president.

Top 10 days with most
crash deaths, 2010-14

All deathsAverage deaths
per day
July 4592118.4
January 1591118.2
September 18552110.4
August 2541108.2
August 27541108.2
July 5539107.8
October 2539107.8
October 8537107.4
September 1535107
September 2535107

Top 10 days with most
motorcycle crash deaths, 2010-14

All deathsAverage deaths
per day
July 412925.8
August 2412024
August 811623.2
June 3011222.4
July 811222.4
August 2711222.4
June 511122.2
August 1011022
June 2110921.8
July 2710921.8

Top 10 days with highest percentage of
crash deaths related to alcohol, 2010-14

All deathsAt least 1 driver or
with BAC≥ 0.08 g/dL
January 159136462%
July 459227847%
December 2446119141%
February 636615141%
July 2450220741%
July 353321941%
March 939616141%
December 2533813741%
April 2143517640%
April 1743817640%

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