As is the case Thanksgiving week, the two weeks encompassing Christmas and New Year’s are heavy periods for travel in the United States, when families and friends are reunited from miles and time zones apart. It is also a period, unfortunately, during which there is a high volume of traffic accidents, injuries and fatalities, a fact that has San Francisco personal injury attorney Gregory J. Brod as concerned as ever about the safety of motorists, passengers, pedestrians, bicyclists, motorcyclists who will be on the roadways this holiday season.
The federal government ushered in a period of stepped-up vigilance for the nation’s roadways Dec. 17, when Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and National Highway Traffic Safety Administrator David Strickland announced the two-week-long “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” crackdown on drunken or drugged driving. The effort has been joined by officials from local law enforcement agencies, the Governors Highway Safety Association and Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
DUI-Related Fatalities Up During Holidays
Statistics suggest that there is plenty of good reason to be concerned over more dangerous conditions on roads during the holiday season, particularly due to the heightened propensity for motorists to be driving under the influence of alcohol. Indeed, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, during the last 10 years, 41 percent of traffic fatalities occurring around the New Year’s holiday and 37 percent of traffic deaths around Christmas involve alcohol impairment. Those figures stand in contrast with the 31 percent national average for alcohol-related traffic fatalities over the last 10 years.
Locally, the figures for drunken-driving-linked fatalities have not been much better than the numbers registered nationally, or they have been mixed at best. For example, according to the California Highway Patrol, comparing figures from CHP jurisdictions in the Bay Area show that traffic fatalities were down over the New Year’s holiday weekend in 2013, but traffic deaths were up over the Christmas holiday the week before.
Holiday Traffic Fatalities Rise Over Last Two Years in California
Statewide, 41 people died on California roadways over the 2013 New Year’s holiday weekend compared with 25 fatalities the comparable weekend the previous year. For Christmas week, the CHP reported that more than twice as many people died on state highways and streets in 2012 than over the corresponding week in 2011. The respective numbers were 39 fatal crashes over Christmas week 2012 and 14 over Christmas week 2011.
With respect to arrests for drunken driving, the numbers have been on the rise in California for both the New Year’s and Christmas holidays over the last two years. During the 2013 New Year’s holiday, the CHP reported that 1,405 drivers were arrested for driving under the influence, compared with the 1,270 motorists who were arrested for DUI the New Year’s week a year before. And during Christmas week 2012, the CHP reported 1,170 DUI arrests, up from the 980 motorists arrested for DUI during Christmas week 2011.
The holiday season is a time when people have every reason to expect safe and special occasions shared with loved ones, not injury or worse on a roadway. Regardless of the time of year, it is important that anyone who has been injured in a traffic accident to find experienced legal counsel as soon as possible. If you or a loved one find yourselves in the latter unfortunate situation, please call the attorneys at the Brod Law Firm for a free consultation.
-James Ambroff-Tahan contributed to this article.
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