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Perspectives in Disease Prevention and Health Promotion Alcohol- Related Traffic Fatalities during Christmas and New Year Holidays -- United States, 1978-1984

Analyses of data from the Fatal Accident Reporting System (FARS) for 1978-1984 reveal that alcohol-related traffic deaths tend to be higher during the Christmas and New Year holiday periods* than during the year as a whole. Three sets of comparisons were made for the 7 years of data: the absolute number of alcohol-related traffic deaths, the percentage of alcohol-related deaths, and the number of alcohol-related deaths per 24 hours occurring during the two holiday periods and the 12-month periods. A death was considered alcohol-related if at least one driver had a positive blood-alcohol concentration test result** (1) or if the investigating officer judged that alcohol was involved.

During the years 1978-1984, the total number of alcohol-related traffic deaths ranged from 17,861 to 21,114 per year. Over these 7 years, both the number of traffic deaths per 24 hours and the proportion of alcohol-related traffic deaths were generally higher for the two holiday periods than for the year as a whole. Both the total number of traffic deaths and the number of alcohol-related traffic deaths per 24 hours for the holidays and the 12-month periods declined from 1980 to 1983. In 1984, the number of alcohol-related traffic deaths increased for both the two holiday periods and the 12-month period; in addition, the proportion of alcohol-related traffic deaths increased during the Christmas holiday period but not the New Year. Reported by MB Grigson, T Zobeck, PhD, G Williams, DEd, Alcohol Epidemiologic Data System, CSR, Incorporated, D Bertolucci, MA, Div of Biometry and Epidemiology, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, Washington, D.C.; Epidemiologic Studies Br, Div of Surveillance and Epidemiologic Studies, Epidemiology Program Office, CDC.

Editorial Note

Editorial Note: The proportion of all traffic deaths that are alcohol-related is generally higher during the holidays than at other times (2). Data collected by Iowa, for example, show that the alcohol involvement rate for 1978 through 1983 was 50%-60% for the New Year holiday period and over 60% for the Christmas holiday. In contrast, during 1983, 49% of all Iowa traffic fatalities were alcohol-related (3).

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are collaborating in a public and private, state and federal prevention effort centered around this year's "National Drunk and Drugged Driving Awareness Week," December 15-21, 1985. They have prepared public service announcements for television and radio that will be available for state and local use during the holidays. A similar effort in Maryland has previously been successful in preventing alcohol-related traffic fatalities (4).

References

  1. CDC. Patterns of alcohol use among teenage drivers in fatal motor vehicle accidents--United States, 1977-1981. MMWR 1983;32:344-7.

  2. CDC. Temporal patterns of motor-vehicle-related fatalities associated with young drinking drivers--United States, 1983. MMWR 1984;33:699-701.

  3. Iowa Department of Transportation. 1983 accident facts. Des Moines, Iowa: Iowa Department of Transportation, January 1985:9.

  4. Office of the County Executive, Montgomery County Government. Report of the ad hoc task force on drinking and driving. Rockville, Maryland: Montgomery County Government, May 1982:95. *The holiday periods were defined according to the National Safety Council. For 1979, 1982, and 1984, the holiday periods were 102 hours long; for the remaining years, the holiday periods were 78 hours long. **Blood alcohol information is available for fewer than half the drivers reported in the FARS.

Disclaimer   All MMWR HTML documents published before January 1993 are electronic conversions from ASCII text into HTML. This conversion may have resulted in character translation or format errors in the HTML version. Users should not rely on this HTML document, but are referred to the original MMWR paper copy for the official text, figures, and tables. An original paper copy of this issue can be obtained from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO), Washington, DC 20402-9371; telephone: (202) 512-1800. Contact GPO for current prices.

**Questions or messages regarding errors in formatting should be addressed to mmwrq@cdc.gov.

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