With the New Year on the horizon it’s time for a holiday season reminder to be particularly careful when driving around our area. Washington State’s Target Zero plan for reducing auto fatalities is virtually certain to involve emphasis patrols for speeding and drunk driving – two major risk factors for auto fatalities in Washington state and nationwide. The State Patrol has already begun DUI emphasis patrols in Eastern Washington and will continue through January 2 of next year. And why not, these patrols appear to be effective since Washington fatalities are down. Here on the Peninsula we had only 11 fatalities in 2011 and only five of those were considered alcohol-related.
The period between Christmas and New Year’s always shows an increase in traffic fatalities nationwide. But, New Year’s is not the most dangerous time to be on the road; that record belongs to Thanksgiving. That may relate to the number of passenger miles driven on this holiday that traditionally involves a great deal of travel. In fact, when you look at the top five dangerous days to be on the road they correlate well with the amount of travel. They are:
- 1. Thanksgiving Day
- 2. Labor Day
- 3. July 4th
- 4. Memorial Day
- 5. Christmas Day
New Year’s does have the distinction of having the highest proportion of alcohol related fatalities.
The fatality rate may not be a complete surprise. New Year’s is a complicated holiday. While it traditionally involves partying there seems to be a general sense that it is a time for friends and family. Seven percent of Americans say they don’t celebrate New Year’s Eve at all and 62% say they stay home. The vast majority 90% claim they spend New Year’s Eve with friends and family.
There are plenty of ways to enjoy the holiday in relative safety and they don’t necessarily involve not joining in the celebration. Here on the Peninsula the Jefferson County Historical Society has been orchestrating a family-friendly, alcohol free celebration called First Night for five years. This is a party that begins and ends early enough for everyone to get home before the late-night revelers are on the road. It’s a good way to start your new year.