Fall and Winter Holiday Drunk Driving Information

by Gina Corena

Last Updated on September 26,2023

Fall and Winter Holiday Drunk Driving Information

The holiday season is fast approaching. In Las Vegas, not only are the streets filled with the locals, but hordes of people like to spend their holidays in Vegas. From Thanksgiving to Christmas to New Year’s Eve, Traffic thickens, and the hazards of Nevada roadways increase. More vehicles speeding around the streets means more distracted or drunk drivers.

During the holiday season, law enforcement agencies add extra officers. They also combine forces. All these efforts are aimed at ensuring safety while compensating for the increased volume on state roads and highways.

During last year’s New Year’s celebrations alone, statistics from the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police show eight people arrested for assorted crimes in about four hours between Fremont Street and the Las Vegas Strip. In those same police blitz, 25 drivers were arrested for operating their vehicles under the influence.

In other areas of the city, the reported data indicates a litany of police activity, including:

  • 262 vehicles were pulled over
  • 161 citations were issued
  • 25 drivers were arrested for DUI
  • Three arrests for outstanding warrants
  • Three arrests for misdemeanors
  • One arrest for a gross misdemeanor
  • One arrest on a felony
  • One arrest for possession of a controlled substance

Anyone who intends to spend the holidays traveling around and discovering the thrills and adventures of Las Vegas should also know the dangers and hazardous situations the holiday season can bring. 

The Dangers of the Holidays, By the Numbers

As time turns and the calendar flips into the holiday season, it allows for friends and family to come together and celebrate that they have one another. These celebrations can lead to excessive drinking. The Hustle and bustle of the crowded roads mixed with potentially dangerous drivers result in a recipe for a rise in drunk-driving crashes.

Compiled data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) report that in the United States, someone dies from drunk driving crashes every 52 minutes. That’s 28 people every day. This average always increases during the holidays. 

From 2010-2018, drunk driving caused 37% of all fatal crashes on fall and winter holidays. That’s more than 6,000 lost loved ones during the holiday season.

Thanksgiving: The risk of a fatality related to a drunk-driving crash increased by 77%. On average, this is the most dangerous day of the year on roadways. Drunk driving has caused more than 800 fatalities on the long weekend of the Thanksgiving holiday.

This weekend has come to include the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, also known as “Blackout Wednesday” or “Drinksgiving” because so many young people gather the day before the holiday to party and drink with friends and family. The festivities often continue into Thanksgiving Day and over into the actual weekend.

The American Addiction Centers (AAC) have found that men who drink on the long weekend of Thanksgiving will have at least three alcoholic drinks, and women will have an estimated 2.4 drinks.

Christmas: Surprisingly, Christmas has the least amount of drunk driving fatalities. But there are still hazards associated with the big holiday. Reported drunk driving occurrences and crashes begin to increase on Christmas day and steadily rise until New Year’s Eve and Day.

This is prime time for holiday parties. The roads are full of traffic. People have time off from work. Families and friends are traveling and meeting up to catch up on the year. College students are home for the holidays.

A study of national roadways between 2012 and 2016 shows an average of 300 people died because of drunk driving during the week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Last year, more than 40% of all fatal crashes happened in that same week span.

New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day: As the celebrations stretch from New Year’s Eve to the early morning of New Year’s Day, the risk of being involved in a fatal drunk-driving crash is 129% higher than any other day of the year. 

The National Safety Council (NSC) has estimated as many as 400 deaths resulting from holiday travel and celebrations on New Year’s Eve and Day. This year, the NSC estimates have climbed to 427 people potentially dying on U.S. roads. This year, the New Year celebrations will fall in the middle of a weekend which further heightens the risk.

According to the AAC, Americans over the legal drinking age will consume 4.4 drinks on New Year’s Eve and Day. This borders on the definition of binge drinking—consuming more than 4-5 drinks in under two hours. Typically, celebrations bringing in the new year see 47% of men and 40% of women engaging in binge drinking. These percentages are higher than on any other day.

The Distraction of Holiday Rideshares

Rideshare Drunk Driving Law

Rideshare companies are invaluable during the fall and winter holidays. They offer safe rides home for those who may have had one too many drinks. Their drivers can also make the most of the boost in tourism during the holiday season. But rideshare services like Uber and Lyft are far from completely safe. 

Rideshare drivers are often distracted because they must rely on cell phones to operate—accepting rides, scanning areas for passengers, and utilizing GPS to determine the best routes or location direction. Data from the NHTSA has revealed that rideshare drivers are distracted between 40-60% of their time behind the wheel. 

It has also been established that, on average, rideshare drivers make more unexpected stops and illegal U-turns, which often lead to an increase in collisions.

A Final Holiday Wish

Statistically, summer holidays are usually the deadliest holidays for driving due to celebrations that involve drinking and/or long-distance travel. But winter holidays traditionally have their fair share of parties and celebrations.

The Zero Fatalities Initiative of the Nevada Departments of Public Safety and Transportation offers a few tips to help focus drivers and increase safety. Their rules for the holiday road include:

  • Follow all traffic laws
  • Do not get in a rush
  • Plan a route ahead of time
  • Choose a designated driver before the party
  • Anyone who drinks should not drive for any reason – use a rideshare, call a taxi, or rely on a sober friend for a ride
  • If someone has been drinking, do not let that person drive and assist them in finding a sober ride home
  • Hosts of a holiday party should make sure their guests leave either sober or with a sober driver 

Zero Fatalities also appeal to all drivers and passengers during the holiday season to always wear their seatbelts. Sometimes, safety precautions are the only defense against drunk or distracted drivers.

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