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Thanksgiving is a deadly driving holiday

About a third of fatal crashes will involve a driver who has been drinking.

By Karen Datko Nov 18, 2010 4:34PM

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The holidays are a deadly time to be on the road. Every year, hundreds of Americans die as a result of alcohol-related car crashes.

If this year's statistics reflect those of years past, more than 400 people will die Thanksgiving weekend -- many of them as a result of being involved in an alcohol-related car crash.


The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has been tracking car crash statistics for a quarter of a century. In 2009, 411 people died during the four-day Thanksgiving holiday. Out of those deaths, 34% involved alcohol-impaired driving. The year prior, 507 people died over a four-day period (35% alcohol-related).


Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is a serious risk. Aside from being irresponsible on the road, impaired driving carries serious insurance consequences. If your insurer discovers you've been convicted of a DUI, your car insurance rates will likely increase or your policy may be canceled or non-renewed.


NHTSA tracks alcohol-related car crashes for other holidays as well. The Fourth of July almost always tops the list. Statistics gathered over the past 25 years show that, on average, nearly 51% of all deadly traffic crashes on July 4 are related to alcohol -- although that percentage varies from year to year.


Besides Thanksgiving and the Fourth of July, NHTSA tracks alcohol-related crashes for Labor Day, New Year's, Memorial Day and Christmas.


When people think of a deadly holiday, they generally associate it with New Year's Day. While that weekend is deadly, other holidays come close. The statistics vary annually based on which day of the week the holiday falls.


For example, some holidays have a four-day weekend, while others only take place during three days -- and some holidays vary from year to year. 


In addition, NHTSA research has consistently shown that more people are killed in crashes that involve an alcohol-impaired driver on the weekends and at night. But no matter what day it is, most crash fatalities occur on two-lane roads. Also, more people die while driving in rain compared with snow or sleet.


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