Memorial Day Holiday Period Estimate for 2021
The National Safety Council (NSC) estimates that 415 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 are also often 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 2021, the Memorial Day weekend extends from 6 p.m. Friday, May 28 to 11:59 p.m. Monday, May 31.
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 337 to 502. This confidence interval cannot account for the unknown impact COVID-19 social distancing practices 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 Memorial Day holiday fatality estimates and typical confidence intervals compared to the actual number of deaths. Data on actual deaths will be added to this page as soon as it is available.
- 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 47,300, with a 90% confidence interval of 38,400 to 57,200.
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 details). Based on the projected number of vehicle occupants who will wear safety belts, an estimated 164 lives may be saved this Memorial Day holiday period. An additional 96 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 2019 represented 28% of the total traffic fatalities. During the 2019 Memorial Day period (latest year available), 37% 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
Source: NHTSA, FIRST query tool
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 vehicle occupants was 48%.