Holidays Bring Big Risks of Buzzed, Drunk Driving

By Denise Johnson | December 7, 2015

The holiday season is in full gear and so too are state and federal highway safety programs focused on reducing the incidence of drunken driving. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) holiday traffic safety campaign, Driver Sober or Get Pulled Over, runs December 16 through January 1.

According to the NHTSA, the holidays bring an increase in social events which equates to an increase in driving under intoxication (DUI) incidents and fatal drunken driving crashes.

Infographic: SCRAM Systems
Infographic: SCRAM Systems

The New York State Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee website,, defines blood alcohol concentration as the percentage of alcohol in a person’s bloodstream. The committee notes that drivers who register .08 BAC are four times more likely to cause an accident than a driver with no alcohol in his or her bloodstream.

The NHTSA reported that during the holiday period of 2013 (December 18 -31), 1180 people were killed as a result of auto crashes with a third attributed to drunken driving. In addition, for the month of December 2013, 733 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes involving drivers who had high blood alcohol levels. The agency’s research also revealed that during the month of December, between 2009-2013, 3857 people died in motor vehicle crashes involving drivers who had high blood alcohol levels. The agency also reported that motorcycles were involved in the most fatal drunken driving crashes at 27 percent, with autos following at 23 percent.

According to just released figures by the NHTSA, a total of 32,675 people died in auto crashes in 2014, with 9967 attributed to drunken driving. Texas, California, Florida, North Carolina and Pennsylvania reported the most traffic deaths and the highest number of deaths attributed to alcohol impaired driving. The District of Columbia, Hawaii, Vermont, Rhode Island and New Hampshire reported the fewest number of traffic fatalities.

The federal auto safety agency reported that alcohol related auto crashes cost around $37 billion annually.

Every day in the U.S., 28 people die due to drunken driving crashes, according to Mothers Against Drunk Drivers. The non-profit reported that a quarter of the crashes that kill teens involve an underage drunk driver.

A Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention report issued earlier this year, highlights the need for continued emphasis on the risks associated with drunken driving. The report, Alcohol-Impaired Driving Among Adults – United States, 2012, noted that 4.2 million U.S. adults reported drinking and driving. Certain factors increased risk, according to the CDC report. Men were involved in 80 percent of alcohol impaired driving instances and men aged 21-34 made up 32 percent of all alcohol related driving occurrences. Those who reported not always using a seatbelt were three times more likely of being involved in alcohol impaired driving.

Though the CDC report found men were involved in the majority of alcohol impaired driving occurrences, an NHTSA study noted that there was an upward trend in women driving under the influence.

The U.S. Department of Transportation recommends staying off roads between midnight and 3 a.m. when the incidence of drunken driving is highest.

Progressive Insurance offers a free blood alcohol concentration calculator on its website at

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