New Year's Day

New Year’s Day Holiday Period Estimate for 2022

A frequently asked question is “How much more dangerous is travel over the New Year’s Day holiday?” Two aspects of this question must be considered: “Compared to what?” and “What about changes in the amount of driving?”

NSC generally compares the holiday to periods of similar length before and after the holiday. However, because Christmas Day is exactly one week before New Year’s, we chose to compare New Year’s to periods of similar length one week and two weeks after it. Specifically, from 6 p.m. Thursday to 11:59 p.m. Sunday of the two weeks immediately after the New Year’s Day weekend. This chart shows the fatality data from FARS for 1995 to 2019 for comparable periods. The average number of traffic deaths during New Year’s Day over the last six 3.25-day holiday periods is 11.6% higher than the average number of traffic deaths during the comparison periods (342 vs. 306 deaths). The difference between these two means is not statistically significant at the .o5 level.

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Source: NSC analysis of NHTSA FARS data

 

NSC also compares the New Year’s Day holiday to other holiday periods. When comparing holiday periods of different lengths, an average fatality per day rate is used. The summer holidays tend to have higher average fatality rates per day than winter holidays. The 2019 (latest data available) New Year’s holiday experienced the second lowest average daily fatality rate compared to other holidays.

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Source: NSC analysis of NHTSA FARS data

The second question concerns changes in the amount of travel or exposure. NSC is not aware of any data system that tracks changes in vehicle miles of travel by day of the year on a national basis. Lacking an objective measure of exposure change, NSC assumes travel is greater on holiday weekends than on non-holiday weekends.

If the assumed travel increase exceeds 11.6%, then the risk of dying in a traffic crash during the New Year’s holiday period is less than during comparable holiday periods. If the travel increase is less than 11.6% or if travel is actually lower, then the risk of dying on the holiday is greater than during comparable periods.

Estimate methods

The objective is to estimate the number of deaths that will occur in traffic crashes during the New Year’s Day holiday period based on data available several weeks before the holiday. The estimate developed by NSC includes all traffic deaths from crashes during the holiday period.

The general procedure involves three steps. First, historical data are used to determine the average fraction that holiday fatalities are of the total motor-vehicle deaths for the month. Second, total traffic deaths for the coming month in which the holiday falls are estimated using a time series forecasting model. Third, the projected total for the month is multiplied by the fraction to obtain the holiday estimate.

Holiday as percent of monthly fatalities: Total January motor-vehicle deaths are calculated using the latest six years of final data available from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). Traffic fatality estimates for the New Year’s Day period are calculated using data from NHTSA’s FARS.

The table shows total motor-vehicle fatalities for January and traffic fatalities from crashes that occurred during the holiday period. Over the six most recent 3.25-day New Year’s Day holiday periods, fatalities from crashes during the holiday period averaged 11.6% of the total fatalities in January.

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A time series model was developed to forecast an estimate of total traffic deaths for January 2022. An exponential smoothing model with seasonality was constructed based on monthly traffic deaths recorded through October 2021. This model was chosen because of the seasonal pattern in traffic deaths. The model forecasts total traffic fatalities for January 2022 to be 3,691. Multiplying the projected total fatalities by the fraction obtained in the first step gives an estimate of 427 traffic fatalities from crashes during the holiday period.

The 90% confidence interval for the estimate of total January motor-vehicle deaths is 3,248 to 4,133. If we assume the fraction of January deaths that occur during the New Year’s Day period is normally distributed, then the 90% confidence interval for that fraction is 10.70% to 12.43%. Combining these two estimates gives the confidence interval for the New Year’s Day period estimate: 347 to 514 traffic deaths.