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30 Holiday Drunk Driving Statistics [2021]

More than 10,000 people lose their lives to drunk driving each year on U.S. roadways. The likelihood of being involved in an alcohol-related crash increases around holiday periods, when social binge drinking is more common. Below, we’ve compiled a list of holiday drunk driving statistics and studied data around which holiday periods are the most dangerous.

Every drunk driving death is preventable, and sadly, fatalities during holiday periods have become eerily predictable. If you or a loved one has been harmed in a car crash involving alcohol, consider speaking to an attorney about your rights.

To better understand the trends around holiday drinking and driving, we took a look at FARS fatal crash data during popular holiday periods where at least one driver had BAC above .08. Here’s what we found:

  • Montana is the deadliest state for holiday alcohol-related crashes per capita, followed by New Mexico and Wyoming.
  • Memorial Day was the deadliest holiday period for alcohol-related crashes in 2019.
  • New Year’s Eve has the highest percentage of alcohol-related deaths.

Use the jump-to buttons below to navigate around our holiday drunk driving guide.

Holiday Drunk Driving Study

Toast during thanksgiving dinner

Driving is the most popular way to travel during holiday periods — but it’s also the most dangerous. While distracted driving is the deadliest crash cause, alcohol-related crashes are more common during holidays, increasing your likelihood of being hit by a drunk driver.

During the winter holidays, 40% of highway deaths are alcohol related. Summer holidays such as Memorial Day and Labor Day also see a big jump in both DUIs and fatal crash deaths.

Below, we analyze FARS crash data to determine which holiday is deadliest for alcohol-related crashes, and where. We found that larger and more populous states have more fatalities involving alcohol, but when adjusted for population, smaller states had more incidents per capita.

Here’s what else we found.

Memorial Day beach gathering

Memorial Day

Each year, Americans observe Memorial Day on the last Sunday in May. In 2019, this holiday period saw both the most driving fatalities and the most crashes involving alcohol — 40% of fatal crashes over the long weekend involved a drunk driver.

  • Wyoming had the most Memorial Day holiday fatalities per capita in 2019, followed by Vermont then Louisiana.
  • In total, 158 Americans lost their lives in alcohol-related crashes over Memorial Day.

Fourth of July

Independence day traditions include red, white, and blue, fireworks, and barbeque. Unfortunately, impaired drivers are also on that list. Over a 5 year period from 2014 to 2018, 812 people died in alcohol-related crashes during the Fourth of July holiday period, making this one of the deadliest days to drive each year.

  • D.C. had the most Fourth of July holiday fatalities per capita in 2019, followed by South Dakota and Delaware.
  • In total, 67 Americans lost their lives in alcohol-related crashes over the Fourth of July holiday.

Labor Day

Labor Day is the unofficial end of summer, but the partying continues into the long weekend, leading to an increase in drunk driving fatalities.

  • Montana had the most Labor Day holiday fatalities per capita in 2019, followed by Wyoming and North Dakota.
  • In total, 142 Americans lost their lives in alcohol-related crashes over Labor Day.
People partying with champagne

Christmas

Every year, the most wonderful time of year becomes the most devastating for some due to drunk driving. Holiday parties and festive libations cause 16% of adults to drink more this time of year, leading to an increase in alcohol-related road deaths.

  • New Mexico had the most Christmas holiday fatalities per capita in 2019, followed by Louisiana and Alaska.
  • In total, 140 Americans lost their lives in alcohol-related crashes over Christmas Day.

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is the most traveled holiday of the year, and the night before is one of the busiest for bars across the country. Also known as Blackout Wednesday, it’s a time when people, especially younger adults, convene with friends and family over a pint. From this date through the end of the year, the roads get more dangerous thanks to increased travel and an uptick in holiday celebrations.

  • Montana had the most Thanksgiving holiday fatalities in 2019 per capita, followed by South Dakota and Delaware.
  • In total, 127 Americans lost their lives in alcohol-related crashes over Thanksgiving.

New Years

Ringing in the new year comes with increased risks on U.S. roadways. During this holiday period, the chances of a fatal crash involving alcohol are the highest of the year. New Years Day is also the most dangerous for pedestrians.

  • South Carolina had the most New Years holiday fatalities in 2019 per capita, followed by New Mexico and Rhode Island.
  • In total, 123 Americans lost their lives in alcohol-related crashes over New Years Eve and New Years Day.
Fatal alcohol-related crashes by holiday - infographic

General Drunk Driving Statistics

Car keys next to a glass of whiskey

Strides have been made in the fight against drunk driving. Since 1980, incidents have decreased by 50%. Yet even still, 28 people still lose their lives in alcohol-related crashes every day and that number increases over holiday periods. Here are some sobering statistics around drunk driving.

Paramedic attending car crash victim

2 in 3 people will be involved in a drunk driving accident in their lifetime.

MADD

From 2009–2018 more than 10,000 people lost their lives to drunk driving each year.

NHTSA

1 in 222 licensed drivers will be arrested for driving under the influence.

III

Every 52 minutes, someone loses their lives to drunk-driving crashes in the U.S.

NHTSA

Utah has the strictest laws on BAC after lowering it from .08 to .05 in 2018.

III

People partying and drinking

Many Americans don’t recognize when they’re binge drinking.

Caron Treatment Center

In 2019, the FBI estimates that 1,024,508 drivers were arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

FBI

2019 had the lowest percentage of drunk driving deaths since 1982 when NHTSA started reporting data.

NHTSA

1 in 10 high schoolers will drink and drive.

CDC

United States one-hundred-dollar bills

Alcohol-related crashes cost more than $44 billion annually.

CDC

Approximately one-third of all car crash fatalities in the U.S. involve drunk drivers with BACs of .08 g/dL or higher.

NHTSA

Holiday DUI Statistics

People toasting with cardboard cups

Holidays are a time of celebration with loved ones. Social binge drinking is more prevalent during these periods, leading to an uptick in drunk driving. More people are on the roads and are more likely to be intoxicated, increasing your risk of an alcohol-related crash. Here are some holiday DUI statistics.

Many state highway patrol departments now issue holiday fatality estimates, which often prove to be all too accurate.

Back Track

Woman drinking a glass of wine

25% of adults admit that they drink more during the holiday season.

Drivers Ed

The period from Thanksgiving to New Year’s sees an estimated 25,000 injuries from alcohol-related crashes.

NHTSA

Fatal DUI accidents are 57% more likely on Fourth of July compared to other summer days.

NHTSA

A quarter of the profits for the $49 billion dollar alcohol industry are made between Thanksgiving and New Years.

Alcohol

Champagne new year's eve toast

New Year’s Day is the deadliest day for alcohol-related crashes, with 58% of crashes being alcohol related.

AAA

In 2017, 119 people died per day during the six major holiday periods compared to 102 people during non-holiday periods.

NHTSA h460

812 people died in crashes involving drunk drivers during the Fourth of July holiday period from 2014-2018.

NHTSA

28% of fatal crashes in December involve drunk drivers.

NHTSA

Holiday Driving Trends

Car driving in the snow

Car trips are the most popular way to travel for the holidays. Whether traveling short or long distances, this increase in traffic also makes the roads less safe. We take a closer look at the numbers around holiday driving.

In 2020, 34 million fewer Americans traveled due in large part to the coronavirus pandemic.

AAA

An estimated 104.8 million Americans drove to their holiday destinations in 2019.

AAA

Over 91 million Americans take road trips between December 23 and January 1, and an estimated 42 million Americans travel by car to Thanksgiving.

AAA

Woman annoyed in traffic

Road rage and aggressive driving is more prevalent around the holidays.

AAA

The period between Memorial Day and Labor Day is known as the 100 deadliest days of summer, when deadly teen crashes increase by 26%.

We Save Lives

Most Dangerous Day to Drive

Aftermath of a car crash

Car travel has the highest fatality rate of any major form of transportation based on fatalities per passenger mile, and there are certain days where it's deadlier to drive than others.

Saturday is the most dangerous day of the week to drive.

Injury Facts

New Year’s Day is the most dangerous for pedestrians.

CBS

People chilling on a convertible moving car

July and August are the most dangerous months to drive and weekends are more dangerous than weekdays.

NCBI

A study by IIHS found that August 2nd accounts for more highway deaths than any other day, in large part due to sunny skies and summer travelers.

Bloomberg

The beginning of daylight savings in March is linked to an increase in car accidents.

NEJM

5 Ways to Stay Safe During Holiday Travel

The best way to avoid becoming a holiday statistic is to avoid the roads on high trafficked holiday periods, but this isn’t always a possibility. If you do intend to travel by car over the holidays, here are some tips for defending yourself against drunk drivers.

  1. Avoid Late Night Drives: After midnight is the most dangerous time to drive. Avoid drunk drivers by stopping for the night at a hotel or rest area.
  2. Check Your Car for Maintenance Issues: Highway shoulders for emergency pull-offs are extremely dangerous. Before a long trip, get your car checked out.
  3. Buckle Up: Seat belts are the greatest traffic safety invention of all time. Put yours to use every time you turn on the ignition.
  4. Get Plenty of Sleep: Defensive driving is essential when sharing the road with drunk drivers. Ensure you’re alert by avoiding drowsy driving.
  5. Plan Ahead: If there’s a chance you might drink, designate a sober driver or come up with a plan for getting home that doesn’t involve getting behind the wheel.

There is no excuse for drunk driving. Alcohol-related crashes are 100% preventable, and there are plenty of options before getting behind the wheel. If you or a loved one has been injured in a drunk driving crash, learn your rights by speaking to an attorney.

Methodology

To compile this report, Dolman Law pulled data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS). Using the holiday period filters, we gathered numbers for accidents and deaths involving crashes where at least one driver had a BAC .08+ g/dL. We then adjusted for population.