The National Safety Council estimates that 340 people may be killed on the roadways during the Christmas holiday driving period, and an additional 384 may be killed during the New Year’s holiday driving period. That number would likely be significantly higher if not for seat belts, which could save 287 lives over the same driving periods. Additionally, sober driving will be critical, as alcohol typically is involved in 37% of fatalities during the Christmas Day holiday period and 39% of fatalities during the New Year’s Day holiday period.
NSC urges everyone in every seating position to buckle up and check to ensure car seats are properly installed, and to designate a sober and drug-free driver or arrange alternative transportation. The Christmas holiday period begins at 6 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 24, and ends at 11:59 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 27. The New Year’s holiday period begins at 6 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 31, and ends at 11:59 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 3, 2021.
“A safe travel season could help instill much-needed hope as we start a new year and close an unrelenting one,” said Lorraine M. Martin, NSC president and CEO. “We can all do our part by buckling up, driving sober, slowing down, avoiding distractions and looking out for one another.”
There is uncertainty with all estimates, and this year’s are subject to enhanced volatility due to the pandemic-related factors of 2020. NSC has been issuing estimates for more than four decades with high levels of accuracy; however, the Council is exercising additional caution this year, as 2020 has seen significant swings in both the numbers and rates of deaths due to the pandemic’s impact on road travel.
NSC monthly analysis has shown that the roads have become deadlier despite fewer miles driven in 2020. While the number of fatalities dropped dramatically in the spring, the U.S. experienced a significant rise in the death rate – a statistic that shows how safe the roads are at any given time. In the first six months of 2020, the death rate was 20% higher than during the same period in 2019, despite a 17% drop in miles driven between January and June. Overall, fatalities are up an estimated 5% through September, with about 30,390 people killed since January.
All motor vehicle fatalities are preventable. In addition to wearing a seat belt and avoiding impairment, NSC recommends drivers:
- Avoid distracted driving, even hands-free
- Get plenty of sleep and take regular breaks to avoid fatigue
- Sign a New Driver Deal with teen drivers at DriveitHOME
- Learn about your vehicle’s safety systems and how to use them at MyCarDoesWhat.org
- Check your vehicle for recalls at ChecktoProtect.org