New Year's Day

New Year’s Day Holiday Period Estimate for 2020

The National Safety Council estimates 163 people may die on U.S. roads this New Year’s 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.

New Year’s Day is observed on January 1. The New Year’s Day holiday period varies from 1.25 to 4.25 days in length, depending on which day of the week the holiday falls. In 2020, New Year’s Day falls on a Wednesday, so the holiday period is 1.25 days and extends from 6 p.m. Tuesday, December 31, 2019 to 11:59 p.m. Wednesday, January 1, 2020. Mid-week New Year’s Day holiday periods lasting only 1.25 days are relatively rare, with only five occurring in the forty-four years since the inception of the Fatality Analysis Reporting System 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 in interpreting these estimates.

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 135 to 195. This chart shows NSC New Year’s Day holiday fatality estimates and confidence intervals compared to the actual number of deaths.

  • Chart
  • Data Table

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 18,600, with a 90% confidence interval of 15,400 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). An estimated 144 lives may be saved this New Year’s Day holiday period because vehicle occupants wear their safety belts. An additional 38 lives could be saved if everyone wears safety belts.

Impaired Driving

Nationwide, alcohol-impaired fatalities (involving blood-alcohol content of 0.08 g/dL or higher) in 2018 represented 29% of the total traffic fatalities. During the 2018 New Year’s Day holiday period, 39% of fatalities involved an alcohol-impaired driver. This chart shows the historic trend of the percent of fatalities involving an alcohol-impaired driver.

  • Chart
  • Data Table

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 48.4%.

See data details