The National Safety Council (NSC) estimates that 164 people may die on U.S. roads this Independence Day holiday period. Holidays traditionally are a time of travel for families across the United States. Many choose car travel, which has the highest fatality rate of any major form of transportation based on fatalities per passenger mile. Holidays also are often a cause for celebrations involving alcohol consumption, a major contributing factor to motor-vehicle crashes.
Independence Day is observed on July 4. The Independence Day holiday period varies from 1.25 to 4.25 days in length, depending on which day of the week the holiday falls. In 2018, the holiday falls on a Wednesday, so the Independence Day holiday period is 1.25 days and extends from 6 p.m. Tuesday, July 3, to 11:59 p.m. Wednesday, July 4. Although many Americans may take additional time off to extend the holiday into a long weekend, the dates used to calculate this estimate only reflect this core holiday period. Mid-week Independence Day holiday periods lasting only 1.25 days are relatively rare, with only six occurring in the 37 years since the inception of the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) in 1975. Because of the rarity of these short holiday periods and the wide span of years over which they occurred, additional caution should be used when interpreting these estimates.
Visit the Holiday Introduction page for a list of 2019 holiday periods and their definitions.
National Safety Council estimate
There is uncertainty associated with any estimate. The 90% confidence interval for the estimate of traffic deaths this holiday is 136 to 194. This chart shows NSC Independence Day holiday fatality estimates and confidence intervals compared to the actual number of deaths. Because the holiday varies from 1.25 to 4.25 days long, the number of fatalities during the holiday also fluctuates widely from year to year.
- Data Table
Source: Estimates and confidence intervals are calculated by NSC; actual deaths reflect NSC analysis of National Highway Traffic Safety Administration FARS data.
A medically consulted injury is an injury serious enough that a medical professional was consulted. Based on the current medically consulted injury-to-death ratio of 114:1 and rounded to the nearest hundred, the estimate of nonfatal medically consulted injuries that will result from crashes during the holiday period is 18,600, with a 90% confidence interval of 15,600 to 22,200.
Lives saved with seat belts
Studies show seat belts, when used, are 45% effective in preventing fatalities among front-seat passenger car occupants (see note below for more detail). Based on the projected number of vehicle occupants who will wear safety belts, an estimated 64 lives may be saved this Independence Day holiday period. An additional 39 lives could be saved if all vehicle occupants wear safety belts.
Nationwide, alcohol-impaired fatalities (involving blood-alcohol content of 0.08 g/dL or higher) in 2016 represented 28% of the total traffic fatalities. During the Independence Day period, 41% of fatalities involved an alcohol-impaired driver, the highest percentage among all the major holidays. This chart shows the historic trend of the percent of fatalities involving an alcohol-impaired driver.
- Data Table
Note: Highest blood-alcohol concentration among drivers or motorcycle riders involved in the crash was 0.08 grams per deciliter (g/dL) or higher. The holiday periods used to calculate the percentages conform to the NHTSA holiday period definitions that add another quarter day to the periods used for the NSC estimate.
Although the reduction in the risk of fatal injury from wearing seat belts is higher for light-truck occupants at 50%, the lower figure for passenger car occupants is used in the calculations here as the more conservative measure. The most recent data from FARS indicate that seat belt use by fatally injured passenger car and light truck occupants was 47.6%.