On average, more people die in motor vehicle crashes on Independence Day than any other day of the year, an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety analysis of the five most recent years of available fatal crash data indicates. What’s driving the trend? Motorcycles and alcohol are both big contributors to the Fourth of July toll.
Each year on the Independence Day holiday in the U.S., an average of 118.4 lives are lost in crashes, making it the most consistently deadly day of the year across the five-year study period. This is 28 more deaths than the overall average daily toll during 2010-2014. (The average is calculated by dividing the actual number of July 4 deaths – 592 – by 5.)
The second worst day for crash deaths during 2010-2014 was Jan. 1st, with an average toll of 118.2 deaths.
Independence Day is by far the deadliest for motorcyclists, with an average of 26 deaths. This compares to the daily average of 12.1 motorcyclist deaths during the study period. New Year’s Day is the deadliest for people in passenger vehicles, with 86 deaths on average during 2010-2014.
Alcohol is a factor in a greater proportion of crash deaths on both July 4th and Jan. 1st. Forty-seven percent of the deaths on July 4th and 62 percent on Jan. 1st involved at least one driver, pedestrian or bicyclist with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of at least 0.08g/dL. The average across all days in these years was 35 percent for deaths in crashes involving alcohol.
“Traveling on a major holiday is risky for many reasons,” said Chuck Farmer, the Institute’s vice president for research and statistical services. “In general, there are more people on the roads, and drivers may be navigating areas beyond their regular commuting routes. There’s a high incidence of alcohol use, which sharply raises the risk of crashing.”
He adds, “Motorcyclists have to be especially careful, so wearing a regulation helmet is always a good choice even in states where they aren’t required.”
On average, crashes claimed the lives of slightly more than 90 people each day during 2010-2014.
“While some holidays are associated with more highway deaths, motor vehicle crashes exact a huge toll every single day of the year,” Farmer points out.
The data used in the analysis is from the federal Fatality Analysis Reporting System, an annual census of fatal crashes on U.S. roads.
“If every driver buckled up and every motorcyclist wore a helmet, no one was impaired by alcohol and everyone drove the speed limit, we could make July 4th and every day safer on the road,” said Adrian Lund, IIHS president.