For many, New Year’s Eve means Champagne, parties, watching the ball drop in Times Square or quiet dinners with friends.
Unfortunately, as many insurance companies can attest, the holiday also means a lethal combination of alcohol and crashes. But, according to recent analysis from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), Jan. 1 is the deadliest day on average for alcohol-related crashes involving a motor vehicle, pedestrian or bicyclist.
IIHS researchers reviewed the five most recent years of available fatal crash data and 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. Of the average of 113 crash deaths on Jan. 1, 62 percent were due to alcohol impairment, the researchers noted, which 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, the researchers found that 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 used by the IIHS researchers 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.
No matter where you are when the clock strikes midnight on Dec. 31, make safe driving an important part of your celebration. Happy New Year!