New Year’s Day Ranks Among Deadliest Days on U.S. Roadways

As many prepare for New Year’s celebrations, AAA is reminding drivers and passengers alike of the dangers on the roads this New Year’s holiday, which consistently ranks among the year’s deadliest days for alcohol-related traffic fatalities.

“According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) 13,384 people died in drunk driving crashes in 2021,” said Tracy Noble, spokesperson for AAA Mid-Atlantic. “With many people celebrating the New Year and then getting behind the wheel after a night of drinking, January 1 is a particularly dangerous day on the roads. Even one death is far too many to be lost from a completely preventable crime.”

Recent NHTSA data shows December drunk driving deaths are the highest in almost 15 years. There were 1,013 lives lost in drunk driving crashes in December 2021. Between 2017-2021, 4,561 people were killed in December drunk driving crashes.

In its annual Traffic Safety Culture Index the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety noted drivers overwhelming perceived driving after drinking alcohol (94%) as very or extremely dangerous and 68% believed such a driver would be likely to be apprehended by police. However, 7% of respondents reported having engaged in this behavior in the past 30 days. This driving behavior must change in order to save lives on our roadways.

Sobering Drunk Driving Facts

  • In 2021, 13,384 people were killed in preventable, drunk driving crashes, a 14% increase from 2020. In fact, on average, more than 10,000 people die each year from drunk-driving crashes. To put it in perspective, that’s equal to about 20 jumbo jets crashing each year, with no survivors. (NHTSA)
  • During the Christmas and New Year’s periods in 2021, there were 304 drunk driving-related fatalities nationally. (NHTSA)
  • In New Jersey, there were 646 fatal crashes in 2022, in 206 of the 646 crashes, Driving While Intoxicated (alcohol and/or drugs) was listed as the contributing factor. There were 229 people killed as a result of these 206 crashes, according to the New Jersey State Police.

Responsible Behavior

To strengthen efforts to protect the public against drunk drivers and reduce alcohol-related traffic deaths, AAA Mid-Atlantic is offering important safety advice to New Year’s Eve partygoers:

  • Always plan ahead to designate a non-drinking driver before any party or celebration begins.
  • Never get behind the wheel of a car when you’ve been drinking alcohol – even after just one drink.
  • Never ride as a passenger in a car driven by someone who has been drinking alcohol – even after just one drink.
  • Do not hesitate to take the keys from friends or family members who may be impaired.
  • Put apps or numbers for ridesharing/local cab companies in your phone before heading out for the evening.
  • Be a responsible host in reminding guests to stay safe and always offer alcohol-free beverages.
  • If you encounter an impaired driver on the road, keep a safe distance and ask a passenger to call 911 (or pull over to a safe location to make the call yourself).
  • Remember: prescription, over-the-counter medications and illegal drugs also can impair your ability to drive safely.
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