Christmas Day Holiday Period Estimate for 2021
The National Safety Council (NSC) estimates that 371 people may die on U.S. roads this Christmas 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 are also often cause for celebrations involving alcohol consumption, a major contributing factor to motor-vehicle crashes.
Christmas Day is observed on December 25. The Christmas Day holiday period varies from 1.25 to 4.25 days in length, depending on which day of the week the holiday falls. In 2021, Christmas Day falls on a Saturday, so the holiday period is 3.25 days and extends from 6 p.m. Thursday, December 23 to 11:59 p.m. Sunday, December 26.
Visit the Holiday Introduction page for a list of 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 314 to 431. This confidence interval cannot account for the unknown impact the evolving response to COVID-19 will have on holiday travel. Because of the unprecedented impact COVID-19 is having on social activities, the uncertainty of this year’s estimate is increased. This chart shows NSC Christmas Day holiday fatality estimates and confidence intervals compared to the actual number of deaths. Because of the variability in travel habits this year resulting from COVID-19, the confidence interval is wider during the pandemic than in recent pre-pandemic years, indicating less precision in this year’s estimate.
- Data Table
Source: Estimates and confidence intervals are calculated by NSC; actual deaths reflect NSC analysis of National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Fatality Analysis Reporting System (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 42,300, with a 90% confidence interval of 35,900 to 49,100.
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 details). An estimated 147 lives may be saved this Christmas Day holiday period because vehicle occupants wear their seat belts. An additional 86 lives could be saved if everyone wears seat belts.
Nationwide, alcohol-impaired fatalities (involving blood-alcohol content of 0.08 g/dL or higher) in 2019 (latest available data) represented 28% of the total traffic fatalities. During the 2019 Christmas Day holiday period, 38% of fatalities involved an alcohol-impaired driver. 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 48.6%.