For many, the Fourth of July is a time for barbecues, picnics and maybe even fireworks by the beach. However, if your plans this July involve a long road trip, perhaps you should reconsider — as we have found that Independence Day is the most dangerous holiday for traffic fatalities involving motorists driving under the influence.
From 2010 to 2017, there were 1,192 deaths attributed to drunken driving accidents during this holiday. This is 87 more fatalities than the number of deaths that occurred on Memorial Day weekend for this time period — the holiday with the second most DUI traffic deaths. Additionally we found that in 2017, DUI fatalities were 57% more likely during the Fourth of July holiday compared to a similar summer day.
How each major holiday ranks for drunken driving fatalities
Fourth of July
42.4 DUI fatalities per day on average
39.5 DUI fatalities per day on average
38.1 DUI fatalities per day on average
31.7 DUI fatalities per day on average
27.9 DUI fatalities per day on average
27.7 DUI fatalities per day on average
The Fourth of July is much more dangerous than an average summer day
You are 57% more likely to be killed in a car accident involving a drunken driver during the Fourth of July holiday compared to an equivalent summer day, according to 2017 figures. There were 184 DUI fatalities that occurred during the holiday weekend that year, which is 67 more than the average of 117 for a comparable 4.5 day span during the summer.
Midweek Independence Days are deadlier for DUIs
We found that the most deadly day of the week for July 4 to occur was Wednesday. Independence Days that occurred Wednesday had a DUI fatality rate 43% greater than when the holiday fell on a Saturday, which was the day of the week with the lowest rate. Additionally, from 2012 to 2017 the weekday Independence Days had an average DUI fatality rate of 43.4 traffic deaths per day, 20% greater than the weekend mean of 36.3.
Consequences of drunken driving
Aside from the great danger it poses to everyone on the road, there are further consequences in place to deter motorists from getting behind the wheel after having a few drinks. In New York, for example, driving with a blood alcohol content of 0.08% or greater can get you a fine of up to $1,000, maximum jail time of 1 year and a driver's license revocation of at least six months.
Though legislation varies by state, below we have summarized the penalties that those convicted of driving drunken can expect to face:
- Fines: A first DUI conviction can carry fines ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars.
- License suspension: Most states will suspend the license of drunken drivers for a period of around 90 days.
- Jail time: First time offenders may be sentenced to up to one year of jail time.
- Increased insurance rates: We have found that car insurance rates can increase by as much as 47% after a DUI.
We collected data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS). Fatalities that resulted from accidents that occurred during the holidays (as reported by FARS) from 2010 to 2017 and involved a driver with a BAC of 0.08% or greater were considered holiday-related drunken driving accidents.
To compare the 2017 drunken driving fatality rate for the Fourth of July to an average comparable span in the summer, we considered the following DUI traffic fatalities:
- Fourth of July weekend 2017: Friday, June 30 at 6:00PM — Wednesday, July 5 at 6:00AM
- Comparable summer periods: Friday at 6:00PM — Wednesday at 6:00AM during summer 2017 (June 21 to September 22)
We then took the per day average for all of the drunken driving deaths that occurred during these spans in order to compare rates.