NSC Estimates 278 Will be Killed on the Roads between Christmas and New Year's

The holiday season always sees a high number of traffic accident fatalities, but the National Safety Council reminds us that seatbelts could save about 245 lives this year.

Shopping. Wrapping gifts. Traveling by car and plane. Shoveling roads. The holidays are a busy time of year, and they are also a lot more dangerous than people realize. Hundreds of car-related injuries and fatalities happen every year, but most of them happen during winter months—especially between Christmas Day and New Year’s.

The National Safety Council estimates that 115 people may be killed on the roadways during the one-day Christmas Day holiday, and an additional 163 people may be killed during the one-day New Year’s Day driving holiday. That’s a projected 278 people over two days, and during the holiday season at that.

But before these projections dampen your festive spirit, the NSC also reminds people that seat belts do save lives. Seat belts are the lowest tech, most effective motor vehicle safety feature, and this year, they could save an estimated 245 lives. NSC is urging everyone in every seating position to wear seatbelts at all times—even if it’s for a short drive.

The Christmas holiday officially begins at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 24, and ends 11:59p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 25. The New Year’s holiday period begins at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Dec 31, 2019, and ends at 11:59p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2020.

Beyond the tragic fatalities that will occur, people are likely to get injured during driving during this period, too. NSC estimates that an additional 13,100 people may be seriously injured in crashes over the Christmas holiday period, and 18,600 may be seriously injured over New Year’s.

"Making sure all holiday travelers arrive at their destinations safely should be at the top of our to-do lists,” said Lorraine M. Martin, president and CEO of the National Safety Council. “That means buckling up, slowing down, avoiding distractions and driving sober. Arriving alive is the best way to start a new year and a new decade.”

While dangerous road conditions definetly play a part in causing holiday car accidents, alcohol is another major causation. During the 2018 Christmas Day holiday period, 37 percent of fatal crashes involved alcohol. That rose to 39 percent during the New Year’s holiday period.

There are ways to avoid motor vehicle crashes, however. NSC recommends always wearing a seatbelt and that drivers:

  • Designate a sober driver or arranger alternate transportation. Don’t forget that impairment begins with the first drink.
  • Understand how drugs, including opioids, affect your ability to drive safely. Visit nsc.org/rxpainkillers to learn more.
  • Avoid distracted driving, even hands-free.
  • Get plenty of sleep and take regular breaks to avoid fatigue.
  • Learn about your vehicle’s safety systems and how to use them at MyCarDoesWhat.org
  • Check your vehicle for recalls at ChecktoProtect.org

You can find supplemental traffic fatality and injury information for Christmas Day and New Year’s Day holiday periods on the NSC website.

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