With Thanksgiving already behind us, we’re headed headlong into the holidays. In late December, a variety of holidays from different cultures occur near the annual winter solstice. Whether you’re celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or the Saturnalia, the holidays aren’t all fun and cheer. Believe it or not, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Eve are a prime time for tragic accidents to occur.
This is part of the reason that, each year, some of the selfless nurses among us volunteer to go to work and keep saving lives while everyone else is celebrating. During the holidays, the rates of traffic accidents, along with associated injuries and fatalities, go up.
Why Christmas and New Year’s Can Be Dangerous
Christmas Eve and the first half of Christmas Day are actually among the most dangerous days to travel, especially by car. According to data from the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration, during the holiday period from 2001 to 2005, 41% of traffic accident fatalities occurred on New Year’s, and 38% occurred on Christmas. Over a decade has passed, but the numbers have remained roughly the same. In 2012, there were 350 fatalities in the United States during the Christmas travel period.
Why are accident rates so high during the winter holidays? There are several reasons why this phenomenon occurs.
- Intoxicated drivers. It’s common sense that you should never, ever drink and drive. It’s illegal and incredibly dangerous. Unfortunately, alcohol’s effects on frontal lobe function can impair your judgement and decision making, making drunk people susceptible to making the potentially deadly choice to drink and drive. Because most people enjoy a few drinks — or more than a few — on holidays like Christmas and especially New Year’s Eve, drunk driving accidents are common. People are more likely to drink and drive on New Year’s Eve than any other day of the year. From 2007 through 2010, nearly 50% of all traffic fatalities occurred during the New Year’s holiday, and 35% of fatalities during Christmas.
- Bad weather. Winter weather can be incredibly dangerous for driving, covering roads in snow or ice and presenting hazards to drivers.