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Fourth of July driving can be deadly

The holidays are a deadly time to be on the road. Every year, hundreds of Americans die as a result of alcohol-related car crashes. The Fourth of July has repeatedly ranked as the deadliest holiday of the year — even deadlier than New Year's Day.

Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is a serious risk. Aside from being irresponsible on the road, impaired driving carries serious insurance consequences. If your insurer discovers you've been convicted of a DUI, your car insurance rates could increase or your policy may be cancelled or non-renewed.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has been tracking car crash statistics for a quarter of a century. Fourth of July almost always tops the list. Statistics gathered over the past 25 years show that, on average, nearly 51 percent of all deadly traffic crashes on July 4 are related to alcohol — although that percentage varies from year to year. Other holidays on the list include Labor Day, New Year's, Memorial Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas.


The deadliest days



Fourth of July
(July 4-6)

491 deaths
(43 percent alcohol related)

Labor Day
(Aug. 30-Sept. 1)

487 deaths
(40 percent alcohol related)

Memorial Day
(May 24-26)

425 deaths
(41 percent alcohol related)

New Year's
(Jan. 1-4)

423 deaths
(41 percent alcohol related)

(Nov. 27-30)

502 deaths
(36 percent alcohol related)

(Dec. 24-27)

420 deaths
(34 percent alcohol related)

Source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2012 data













Two years ago (the latest statistics available), 491 people died in car accidents during the three-day Fourth of July weekend. Out of that total, 43 percent died as a result of alcohol-impaired driving. By comparison, 423 people died that same year during the four-day period surrounding New Year's Day. In this case, 41 percent were alcohol related.


When people think of a deadly holiday, they generally associate it with New Year's Day. However, that association may be precisely why people stay off the roads on New Year's more than they do on July 4. (While the New Year's statistics are totaled over four days, the Fourth of July stats are for three days.)

"Drunk driving is a major public safety threat that still claims thousands of lives every year," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, in a recent media release. "Many states continue to step up their efforts to get drunk drivers off our roads, but the numbers tell us we have to do more."

In addition, NHTSA research has consistently shown that more people are killed in crashes that involve an alcohol-impaired driver on the weekends and at night. In 2012 alone, 58 percent of drivers and motorcycle riders were killed in alcohol-related crashes that took place over the weekend and at night. But no matter what day it is, most crash fatalities occur on two-lane roads. Also, more people die while driving in rain compared to snow or sleet.

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