Despite being the most wonderful time of the year, statistics show that the festive period is the deadliest on America’s roads. In 2018, in one week alone, there were 285 deaths due to drunk driving according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). On New Year’s Day, drunk driving-related deaths skyrocket to 129% above the baseline average, making it the most dangerous holiday of the year in terms of intoxicated road use. 

DesertHopeTreatment.com, a leading provider of addiction treatment, polled 3,510 Americans revealing that over two-thirds of Marylanders (68%) will choose to stay over with family at Christmas in order to avoid drunk drivers on roads and highways this year – above the national average of 59%. Given that Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are on a Friday and Saturday this year, it may be the wisest choice to stay over, if possible, considering 62% of drunk driving-related fatalities occur over the weekend.

Safe, sober driving is one of the greatest gifts one can give this holiday season, and nearly 2 in 3 (64%) respondents said they would even report a friend or family member if they decided to drive home drunk. Considering so many families (including young children) travel by car during this time, 67% of people also believe that penalties for impaired driving should be harsher over the festive period. In fact, nearly three-quarters of people believe there should be a completely zero-tolerance policy regarding drinking and driving during the holiday season – that is, no level of alcohol should be allowed before driving.

A significant majority (82%) of people also said they drive more cautiously and defensively during the holiday season given the unfortunately high number of drunk drivers on the road.

When respondents were asked the holiday during which they’d likely avoid driving, the results reflected the following: more than three-quarters (78%) of people said they’d most likely avoid the roads on New Year’s Eve and more than 1 in 10 (11%) would avoid driving on New Year’s Day. In fact, AAA says that January 1st is a particularly dangerous day on the roads, consistently ranking among the year’s deadliest days for alcohol-related traffic fatalities. Christmas Eve (6%), Thanksgiving (3%), and Christmas Day (2%) rounded out the top five holidays.

Plan ahead for the holidays:

  • If you, like many Americans, have holiday gatherings scheduled in the coming weeks, it’s important to make smart choices when it comes to getting home safely after the festivities are over. If you are the designated driver, it’s wise to commit to 100% sobriety to keep you and your loved ones safe, as well as other road users. Don’t hesitate to take keys away from family members or friends who may be about to drive while under the influence, and never ride as a passenger in a car driven by an individual who has been drinking. If you’re hosting a holiday party, be responsible by always offering alcohol-free beverage options for those who choose to remain sober. 
  • If you’re worried about getting home after a holiday gathering, it’s a good idea to save the contact details of local cab companies in your phone or download ridesharing apps before you head out. Don’t forget that some prescription, over-the-counter medications, and illegal drugs can also impair your ability to operate a vehicle safely.
  • If you suspect an impaired driver on the road, keep a safe distance and either ask a passenger to contact local law enforcement or pull over to a safe location and make the call yourself. Doing this can save the lives of many people.

David M. Higgins II, Publisher/Editor

David M. Higgins was born in Baltimore and grew up in Southern Maryland. He has had a passion for journalism since high school. After spending many years in the Hospitality Industry he began working in...

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