Winter Holiday Period Raises Probability of Drunk Driving Car Accidents
By Zachary Mushkatel on December 18, 2014
With the holiday season upon us, it is a good time to remember that the winter holidays can be a dangerous time on the road as the potential for drunk driving car accidents increases.
Summer holidays (Independence Day, Memorial Day and Labor Day) are actually more dangerous in terms of fatal accidents overall, the National Safety Council says, but alcohol plays a bigger factor in winter holidays.
The four-day Thanksgiving holiday period sees the most overall fatal car crashes, with an average of 416 each year, but New Year’s has the highest percentage of alcohol-impaired traffic deaths, at 43 percent, the NSC says.
The averages for each winter holiday are:
- Thanksgiving Day – 104 traffic deaths, 37 involving alcohol-impaired drivers.
- Christmas Day – 88 traffic accident deaths, 30 involving alcohol-impairment.
- New Year’s Day – 106 traffic accident deaths, 45 involving alcohol-impairment.
In Arizona last year, according to the Arizona Department of Transportation, winter holiday car accidents included:
- Thanksgiving (five days) – 10 fatal crashes and 13 deaths, 3 alcohol-related.
- Christmas (two days) – 1 fatal crash and 1 death, no alcohol involvement.
- New Year’s (five days) – 3 fatal crashes and 4 deaths, 1 alcohol-related crash and 2 alcohol-related fatalities.
In Arizona, except for Thanksgiving, more fatal car crashes occurred during summer holidays in 2013:
- Memorial Day – 9 fatal crashes
- July 4th – 15 fatal crashes
- Labor Day – 8 fatal crashes.
(Arizona holiday fatality statistics are based on fatal crashes occurring from 6 p.m. on the last working day prior to the holiday through 5:59 a.m. the day following the holiday period. Example: Thanksgiving fatalities are counted from 6 p.m. Wednesday evening through 5:59 a.m. the following Monday.)
Unfortunately, nearly 4,400 people were arrested on suspicion of DUI between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve in 2013, according to the Arizona Republic and the Arizona Governor’s Office of Highway Safety (GOHS).
The Governor’s DUI Task Force initiates several DUI crackdowns each year between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. In 2013, they involved 2,247 law enforcement officers.
For the 2013 holidays, the GOHS reported:
- 4,371 arrests
- 1,098 arrests on suspicion of extreme DUI (blood alcohol content higher than .15)
- 450 on suspicion of aggravated DUI
- 934 DUI drug arrests
The average blood-alcohol content of those arrested was 0.15 percent. The legal limit is 0.08 percent.
From Jan. 1, 2012, through Jan. 1, 2013, officers working on the task forces arrested 27,710 individuals on suspicion of DUI, according to the report. This means the winter holiday arrests accounted for 15.8 percent of DUI arrests for the entire year.
Safety & Health Magazine: Infographic: Alcohol-impaired holiday traffic fatalities
Arizona Dept. of Transportation: Arizona Motor Vehicle Crash Facts 2013
Arizona Republic: More than 4,000 Arizona drivers arrested by holiday DUI task force
Zachary Mushkatel is an Arizona native who earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Arizona in 2001 and his law degree from the University of Minnesota Law School in 2004. After serving as a public defender, he entered into private practice and, ultimately, joined forces with Mathis Becker to form the law firm known today as Mushkatel, Robbins & Becker, PLLC. In addition to criminal law, Mushkatel practices civil litigation, with a focus on estate litigation and personal injury cases. He also serves on the Board of Directors for the Surprise Regional Chamber of Commerce and Sun Valley Lodge, and he is an executive officer and member of the Board of Directors for the West Maricopa County Bar Association.