Memorial Day Traffic Fatality Estimate

The National Safety Council estimates 402 people may die on U.S. roads this Memorial 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 often are cause for celebrations involving alcohol consumption, a major contributing factor to motor vehicle crashes.

Memorial Day is observed on the last Monday in May. The holiday is always a 3.25-day weekend consisting of Friday evening, Saturday, Sunday and Monday. In 2018, the Memorial Day weekend extends from 6 p.m. Friday, May 25, to 11:59 p.m. Monday, May 28.

Visit the Holiday Introduction page for a list of 2018 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 351 to 459 This chart shows NSC Memorial Day holiday fatality estimates and confidence intervals compared to the actual number of deaths.

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Source: Estimates and confidence intervals are calculated by the National Safety Council;  actual deaths reflect NSC analysis of National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Fatality Analysis Reporting System 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 45,800, with a 90% confidence interval of 40,000 to 52,400.

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 157 lives may be saved this Memorial Day holiday period. An additional 95 lives could be saved if all vehicle occupants wear safety belts.

Impaired Driving

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 Memorial Day period, 36% of fatalities involved an alcohol-impaired driver. This chart shows the historic trend of the percent of fatalities involving an alcohol-impaired driver.

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Source: NHTSA, Traffic Safety Facts Annual Report Tables

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%.

See data details