Alcohol-related automobile crashes resulting in serious injuries and sometimes death occur throughout the calendar year, but New Year’s celebrations bring an increased risk with more people than normal out celebrating.

The U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reports that drunk drivers play a role in a full 40 percent of traffic deaths each year over Christmas and New Year’s. That’s an increase of 12 percent over the rest of December.

“We frequently see a higher number of drunk driving accidents during the holiday season, and each year at this time we hope more people will either stay off the roads after drinking, hand their car keys to a sober friend or arrange for a ride to travel where they want to go,” said Dr. Erik Streib, medical director of the Eskenazi Health Smith Level I Shock Trauma Center. “At a time of year when people are planning celebrations that traditionally involve alcohol consumption, it is important to make travel plans in advance, or reserve a place to spend the night instead of driving at all. The dangerous consequences of drunk driving are real and it’s up to all of us to make smart decisions to ensure we enjoy a safe holiday season.”

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration states that 300 Americans die each year in the handful of days surrounding the Christmas and New Year’s holidays. An average of 30 people die each day in December due to drunk-driving wrecks, and throughout the year, more than 10,000 people die on U.S. roads —equal to 20 jumbo jets crashing — because of drunk driving.

People who don’t often drink and who have a lower tolerance for alcohol tend to drink and get on the roads this time of year. Likewise, people with serious drinking problems sometimes drink more because others are drinking around them. An increased tendency to drink combined with hazardous winter road conditions is a recipe for disaster.

Another concern motorists need to be aware of is traffic fatalities have increased dramatically recently with the main reason believed to be individuals paying attention to their cell phones or other devices while driving. The National Safety Council reports that cell phone use while driving leads to 1.6 million crashes each year. Nearly 390,000 injuries occur annually from accidents caused by texting while driving, and 1 of every 4 car accidents in the United States is caused by texting and driving.

Texting is the most common distraction. A five-second glimpse while sending or reading a text takes your eyes off the road and at 55 mph it’s the equivalent of driving the length of an entire football field with your eyes closed. You cannot drive safely unless your full attention is on the task of operating your motor vehicle, and any distraction will dramatically increase your risk of crashing. 

Eskenazi Health treats more than 2,000 trauma patients each year and became the first verified adult Level I trauma center in the state in 1992.  A Level I trauma center is a comprehensive regional resource that is central to the trauma system. Trauma centers verified as Level I are capable of providing total care for every aspect of injury, from prevention to rehabilitation. Key elements of a Level I trauma center include 24-hour, in-house coverage by trauma surgeons and prompt availability of care in specialties such as orthopedic surgery, neurosurgery, anesthesiology, emergency medicine, radiology, internal medicine and critical care.

Contact: Brian Van Bokkelen
Phone: 317.847.1791
Cell: 317.402.9327

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