Are There More DUI Arrests During Holidays?

Posted by Richard Lawson | Mar 23, 2016 | 0 Comments

Coming back from Saint Patrick's Day weekend, I was curious as to how DUI statistics are affected by the holidays associated with alcohol consumption.  Atlanta is known for the "green beer" drinking scene during St. Patrick's day.  It was not surprising to find that St. Patrick's day was one of the biggest days of the year for DUI fatalities. The National Highway Traffic Safety Association found that 276 people were killed during the holiday between 2009 and 2013.

Reporting Car Fatalities as a Whole:

In 2014, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reported that 32,675 people died in car crashes due to alcohol, speeding or lack of seat belt use. DUI statistics that exist, either from the NHTSA or IIHS, each requires a different analysis. That is due to the variation of statistic intake for the DUI numbers. For example, a holiday such as New Years can have a substantial number of DUI arrests due to increased police presence, thereby potentially causing a decreased number of DUI fatalities. In comparison to the 4th of July, which tends to have a lower number of on-duty police and a higher number of DUI deaths. These results may differ based on different jurisdiction's holiday-DUI-action plan for their local police. The NHTSA and IIHS have produced vast amounts of research relating to DUIs and holidays, and all of the research suggests the same thing; holidays produce deadly results for DUIs, and increased policing can reduce deaths.

How Our Holidays Compare – The Deadliest Holidays:

New Years':

A report by the National Safety Counsel stated one major reason for New Years' becoming one of the number one DUI fatality in America is because it and Independence day are the two most likely days for drinking and driving. Other reasons are heavy road congestion and travel plans. AAA states that nearly half of the driving fatalities on New Years in 2010 were due to alcohol. 

Labor Day and Memorial Day Weekends:

According to AAA, 34.1 million Americans will travel for the Labor Day holiday. Between 2009 and 2014 they reported an average of 400 traffic-related deaths per year. Memorial Day weekend was a slightly higher average. Assuming 40% of those were DUI related deaths (to the low average), that is 160 deaths each holiday, per year.

Independence Day:

The 4th of July is one of the deadliest holidays in America for car fatalities. The IIHS reported that between 2005 and 2009, on average 144 people died during the Independence Day holiday. That was 750 lives lost due to drivers over a BAC of .08 or more. These deaths made up 39% of all car fatalities during those reported years. 10% of those deaths belonged to teen drivers.


Thanksgiving rose to one of the biggest DUI holidays because of the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. In 2008, “Blackout Wednesday” was the deadliest holiday of the year. Although it has not retained the number one spot in the years following, it still is one of the biggest days for DUIs.


DUI stats gets an entire month for Christmas. Throughout the time of December, nearly 95 million people will be on the road, according to AAA. NIAAA reported that 40% of traffic-related deaths were related to DUI at this time of year. It should be noted that NHTSA reported a higher number of DUI fatalities occur during the summer months than during the winter holidays. Nine of the ten deadliest days for youths on the highway fall between May and August.

Good News for Holiday Drivers:

IIHS and MADD reported that there had been a steady decline in the rate of alcohol-related deaths on the nation's highways for the holidays. In 1982, NHTSA showed that 2,600 deaths were DUI related while more recent years that number has dropped to 1,200. That is almost a 30-year decline from 60% to 40% of deaths are related to DUI. 

About the Author

Richard Lawson

Managing Partner at Lawson & Berry:


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