Auto Club Warns of Holiday Driving Perils

December 16, 2004

The days surrounding Christmas and New Year’s Day are the most dangerous periods of the year for drinking and driving, according to a study by the Automobile Club of Southern California. The analysis of California data for 1994-2002 measured the rate of increase of alcohol-related crashes resulting in deaths and injuries on 10 national holiday periods and four special occasions.

The special occasions examined in the study are Super Bowl Sunday, St. Patrick’s Day, Cinco de Mayo and Halloween. These periods are often regarded as having high rates of drinking and driving.

When comparing alcohol-related crashes that result in death or injury to all crashes over the holidays and special occasions, the New Year period ranked as the most dangerous in terms of the rate of daytime and nighttime crashes and Christmas ranked second most dangerous. The study controlled for the day of the week and month of the year in which crashes occurred.

“The New Year’s period, which includes the evening of December 31, January 1 and the early morning hours of January 2, showed a significant increase in the proportion of daytime and nighttime crashes involving alcohol throughout the 9 years we analyzed,” said study author Steven Bloch, Ph.D., senior research associate for the Auto Club. “There has been a 148 percent increase during the day and a 100 percent increase at night compared to other non-holiday periods. Christmas has had a 139 percent increase during the day and 78 percent at night. The Christmas period is the evening of December 24, December 25 and the early morning hours of December 26.”

Memorial Day weekend (55 percent increase), Super Bowl Sunday (41 percent) and Labor Day weekend (20 percent) also ranked among the top five periods for increased rates of nighttime drinking and driving. Labor Day (22 percent), July 4th (21 percent) and a tie between Thanksgiving and President’s Day (11 percent) ranked in the top five in terms of daytime DUI-related crashes. Halloween and Columbus Day showed no increased danger in terms of the rate of alcohol-related crashes.

The Auto Club advises that motorists can keep themselves and others safe and can avoid DUI crashes by keeping these safety tips in mind:

— At social events, designate non-drinking drivers who can get everyone home safely.

— Call a friend or family member for a ride if one has been drinking.

— Keep a cab company telephone number in a wallet to call for a ride home.

— As a party host, offer a variety of non-alcoholic drink alternatives.

— Take the car keys away from friends and relatives who have had too much to drink.

The study, titled “Time to Party: a Comparative Analysis of Holiday Drinking and Driving,” is available from the Auto Club.

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