As the holiday season approaches, bringing with it a sense of joy and celebration, there lurks an often-overlooked danger: the risk of road accidents.
The National Safety Council (NSC) has released a sobering estimate that 720 people may lose their lives on U.S. roadways during the upcoming holiday period, with 345 fatalities expected during the Christmas holiday driving period and an additional 375 during the New Year's holiday driving period.
This alarming statistic is a stark reminder of the hazards associated with holiday travel. The NSC's report highlights that impaired driving, accounting for 36% and 40% of these fatalities during the Christmas and New Year's periods respectively, remains one of the leading causes of traffic deaths in the U.S. The observance of National Impaired Driving Prevention Month coincides with this time, underscoring the need for heightened awareness and caution.
Mark Chung, executive vice president of roadway practice at the National Safety Council, emphasizes the dangers of impairment from various sources such as alcohol, drugs, fatigue, or stress.
"Impairment, whether it be from alcohol, drugs and/or another factor such as fatigue or stress, causes a decline in visual function, mental judgment and motor skills," Chung says.
Chung urges everyone to take personal responsibility for road safety by adhering to basic safety measures like buckling up, driving sober, slowing down, avoiding distractions, and being vigilant of fellow road users.
In response to this pressing issue, law enforcement agencies across the nation are ramping up efforts to ensure road safety. From December 13 through January 1, officers will be conducting sobriety checkpoints and engaging in community outreach to deter impaired driving. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is also playing a crucial role in educating drivers through public service campaigns such as "Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over" and "If You Feel Different, You Drive Different; Drive High, Get a DUI."
These efforts are part of a broader commitment to embrace a Safe System Approach, as adopted by Congress and the U.S. Department of Transportation in the National Roadway Safety Strategy. This holistic approach involves both public and private sector organizations working together to reduce the incidence of impaired driving and enhance overall road safety.
The Christmas holiday period is defined as beginning at 6 p.m. on Friday, December 22, and ending at 11:59 p.m. on Monday, December 25. The New Year's holiday period follows, starting at 6 p.m. on Friday, December 29, and concluding at 11:59 p.m. on Monday, January 1, 2024. During these times, the risk of traffic fatalities and injuries increases, making it imperative for all road users to exercise extra caution and responsibility.
The National Safety Council, as America's leading nonprofit safety advocate, has been at the forefront of efforts to eliminate preventable deaths and injuries on the roadways. As we enter this festive season, the NSC's message is clear: while we celebrate and enjoy the holidays, let's not forget the importance of road safety. By being mindful of the risks and taking proactive steps to mitigate them, we can ensure that the holiday season remains a time of happiness and celebration, not tragedy.