- The holiday season can be dangerous. (Photo: flickr/robertsdonovan)
Hundreds of people will die in transportation deaths in these next few days. Bleak thought, I know, but it's worth remembering in our current season. Consider this your public service announcement.
Traffic fatalities always spike during major holidays, and the season encompassing the end of December and beginning of January is one of the most significant time periods because two big holidays are paired — Christmas on Dec. 25 and New Year's on Jan. 1.
Earlier in December, I began glancing at traffic-fatality data, and among the documents I examined was the Fatality Analysis Reporting System General Estimates System report, a federal assessment of traffic fatalities from 2009 and earlier released just this fall. The examination considers many dimensions and is one of the more mature and comprehensive breakdowns for why people die on the road.
Among their many charts was the following: "Persons Killed and Percent Alcohol- Impaired Driving During Holiday Periods, 1999-2009."
This chart identified how many died during every major holiday over the specified number of holiday days. During the four holiday days of New Year's Day 2009, 468 people were killed and 40% suffered from alcohol-impaired driving. During the three festive days surrounding Christmas 2009, 262 died and 37% drove intoxicated. 730 dead in what was likely little more than a week.
The other holidays feature similar numbers. Fourth of July led to 410 dead in '09. Memorial Day? 473. Thanksgiving was associated with 411. These holidays cause an outsize fraction of total traffic fatalities. In 2009, that number was 30,797. Six major holidays (Christmas, New Year's, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, Labor Day) of 2009 caused 2,384 deaths, which amounted to one about in 13 traffic fatalities that year.
We have some control over these numbers, but year after year, they remain relatively high. Drive safe, drive sober, make sure the same is true of friends and family. Be particularly cautious on the road. D.C. is lucky enough to enjoy alternatives to driving. Consider taking the Metro. WMATA will even offer extra trains on the afternoon of Dec. 23 and on Dec. 30 to accommodate holiday travel. Their service will not be particularly reduced over holiday break, and you can see their hours here. Consider walking, consider calling a cab or texting Uber, consider the bus. You can also call 800-200-8294 from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. from Dec. 16 to Jan. 1 to get a free SoberRide as part of the Washington Regional Alcohol Program's 2011 Holiday SoberRide program. The ride has to be under $30 in value, however, and you have to be at least 21 years old.
Happy holidays, D.C. Keep your travel safe.