Holidays are meant to be times of celebration, but there is one that is riddled in stats are far from festive. If you couldn’t tell from the fireworks above, that holiday is none other than the Fourth of July. On average, more people die in motor vehicle crashes on that day than any other day of the year, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). In an analysis of the past five years, the institute found an average 118.4 people die in crashes on July 4. That’s 28 more deaths than occur on an average day.
“Traveling on a major holiday is risky for many reasons,” says Chuck Farmer, IIHS 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.”
Alcohol and motorcyclists contributed most to the troubling trend. Forty-seven percent of crashes involved at least one driver, pedestrian or bicyclist with a blood alcohol concentration of at least 0.08g/dL. On average, that number hovers around 35 percent. An average 26 deaths involved those on motorcycles, compared to the average 12.1 on an ordinary day.
The statistics for the Fourth of July weekend as a whole are even grimmer. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association, 40 percent of all highway deaths between 2007 and 2011 were caused by drunk driving over the holiday weekend. In 2013, the National Security council estimated the weekend would bring 540 deaths and nearly 58,000 serious injuries.
“If every driver buckled up and every motorcyclist wore a helmet, no one was impaired by alcohol, and everyone drove the speed limit,” says Adrian Lund, IIHS president, “we could make July 4 and every day safer on the road.” Your best bet: Celebrate the Fourth from home with these fun ideas.