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New Year’s Tops Christmas in Fatalities Tied to Alcohol

Deadly U.S. crashes tied to New Year’s are more likely to be alcohol-related than accidents during other holiday periods, with Christmas having the lowest share of fatalities linked to drinking, a safety group said.

There was an average of 108 traffic deaths a day in the New Year’s period, with about 42 percent linked to alcohol impairments, according to the National Safety Council, citing data from 2007 to 2011. That compares with 35 percent of the 93 fatalities in the average day in the Christmas period.

The council projects there will be 105 traffic fatalities from 6 p.m. Dec. 24 through the end of the next day and 11,200 injuries so serious that a medical professional is consulted, according to a statement today. For the 30-hour period beginning Dec. 31, the figures will be 156 and 16,700, according to the council, a nonprofit group founded 100 years ago and chartered by Congress.

“The difference between the two holidays is that everybody on New Year’s Eve is going out to parties and at their parties, they’re having the alcohol,” Capt. Nancy Rasmussen, chief of public affairs for the Florida Highway Patrol, said in a phone interview. Christmas is more of a “stay-in-the-house, do-the-family thing, so there’s less drinking.”

The July 4, Memorial Day and Labor Day periods have the greatest number of fatalities, with an average of at least 140 each per day. New Year’s has the fourth most, followed by November’s Thanksgiving and Christmas, among the six holidays reviewed by the council. The study counts Thanksgiving as a period of more than four days, from Wednesday evening through Sunday.

Late-Night Partying

The Labor Day period, in September, starts on a Friday evening and runs through Monday night. The other periods can be as long as Thanksgiving, or as short as 30 hours when the holidays fall on a Wednesday, like the upcoming Christmas and New Year’s Day.

“If people have to go back to work the following day, that might prevent some of the late-night partying and the drinking that is expected with New Year’s,” Rasmussen said.

Warmer months in the U.S., such as May through September, are marked by more driving than colder periods, according to Federal Highway Administration data compiled by Bloomberg. Memorial Day is in May.

Drinkers who are even “just a little buzzed” shouldn’t get behind the wheel, the NSC said. They should designate a sober driver or take a cab, the council said.

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