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IIHS News | December 28, 2016Subscribe

New Year's Day is deadliest for alcohol-related crashes

ARLINGTON, Va. — New Year's evokes visions of celebrations and fresh beginnings, but unfortunately, the holiday has a more somber side when it comes to alcohol and crashes. Jan. 1 is the deadliest day on average for alcohol-related crashes involving a motor vehicle, pedestrian or bicyclist, a new Insurance Institute for Highway Safety analysis shows.

Using the five most recent years of available fatal crash data, IIHS researchers found that every New Year's Day, an average of 70 lives were lost in crashes in which at least one driver, pedestrian or bicyclist had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent or higher. Sixty-two percent of the average of 113 crash deaths on Jan. 1 were due to alcohol impairment. That is nearly double the overall impairment rate of 35 percent during the 2011-15 period.

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," says Joe Nolan, IIHS senior vice president for vehicle research.

It's not just drivers who need to be cautious. 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 percent of pedestrians and 36 percent of bicyclists age 16 and older killed in crashes between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. had BACs at or above 0.08 percent.

Days with the highest percentage of
crash deaths related to alcohol impairment, 2011-15

Total deaths At least 1 driver, pedestrian,
or bicyclist with BAC≥ 0.08%
Percent of
crash deaths
January 1 567 352 62%
July 4 612 298 49%
March 24 371 153 41%
April 27 449 185 41%
August 9 529 217 41%
March 8 388 159 41%
October 27 490 199 41%
November 2 478 194 41%
June 16 535 216 40%
May 3 560 226 40%

Days with the most passenger
vehicle occupant crash deaths, 2011-15

Total deaths Average deaths per day
January 1 414 82.8
November 1 376 75.2
November 21 365 73.0
December 14 365 73.0
May 3 364 72.8
November 22 360 72.0
June 25 358 71.6
June 26 358 71.6
November 15 357 71.4
November 10 355 71.0
November 23 355 71.0

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