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Drunk Driving Increases Around the Holidays: Here’s Why

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Posted on October 16, 2023

The holidays are a time for celebrating with friends and family and enjoying everything that comes with the season, including festive food and drinks. But for some families, the holidays become a time of year for an annual painful reminder of loved ones lost in drunk driving accidents. Alcohol-related accidents accelerate in numbers over the holiday seasons. Statistics reveal that the percentages of alcohol-related accidents dramatically increase over both summer and winter holidays.

Holiday Week Alcohol-Related Accident Statistics in the U.S.

Every calendar year has holidays interspersed throughout each season. Just as regularly as the holidays come around every year, so does a corresponding rise in drunk-driving accidents on the roadways. A Behavioral Health study shows that these increases in alcohol-related accidents are especially notable for specific holiday weeks including the following:

  • The week of Independence Day, or the Fourth of July, has the highest percentage of alcohol-related accidents with 35.7% of all car accidents attributed to drunk driving
  • New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day have the second highest percentage, with 35.4% of accidents alcohol-related
  • During both Labor Day and Memorial Day weekends, drunk driving accidents make up 34.6% and 34.5% of car crashes
  • On Thanksgiving, 30.9% of accidents are caused by drunk drivers
  • During Christmas week each year, 30.5% of accidents are attributed to drunk drivers

Drunk driving accidents also rise during Columbus Day, Martin Luther King Day, and President’s Day weekends. During holiday weeks, drunk drivers cause 32.9% of accidents, while drunk drivers cause only 25.2% of car accidents during non-holiday weeks.

Why Do Drunk Driving Accidents Increase During the Holidays?

Drunk driving accidents occur more often on weekends than during the work week because more people enjoy alcoholic beverages during their days off of work. Holiday weekends not only offer freedom from the workplace, but also holiday-related parties, gatherings, and events—often accompanied by alcoholic beverages. Many holiday revelers make the deadly mistake of getting behind the wheel after drinking during their holiday celebrations.

Enjoying a few festive beverages can loosen inhibitions and liven up a holiday party or event, but The National Highway Travel Safety Administration warns, “If you feel different, you drive different.” While driving under the influence of alcohol, reaction times slow, judgment dissipates, cognitive function decreases, drowsiness increases and visual problems occur—all with dangerous impacts behind the wheel.

At the same time that the consumption of alcoholic beverages increases during the holidays, the roads are also more crowded with travelers as people travel to visit family members, congest the metro areas for holiday shopping and social gatherings, and take care of errands while they have time away from work. The deadly combination of increased traffic and drunk drivers results in a rise in fatalities and injuries in car accidents during the holidays.

Holiday Stress Also Increases Drunk Driving Accidents

Festive events and family celebrations aren’t the only causes of increased drunk driving accidents over holiday weeks. Studies show that holiday stress can exacerbate existing mental health conditions like anxiety and depression in those who suffer from those conditions. Increased stress, anxiety, and depression over the holidays also often result in increased alcohol consumption and may contribute to poor decision-making. Road rage and aggressive driving incidents also rise during the holiday seasons.

While enjoying a few drinks during special times with family, friends, and coworkers over the holidays can help brighten an already sparkling season, choosing to get behind the wheel while intoxicated is a deadly decision that comes with lifelong consequences. Speak with a San Diego car accident lawyer today for more information if you have been involved in a drunk driving accident.