Our Take: Memorial Day is the Deadliest Holiday

May is the deadliest month of the year, and Memorial Day is the deadliest holiday on U.S. roadways, even worse than New Year’s and Thanksgiving. Mother’s Day is the 5th and Cinco de Mayo is the 7th. They combine for a total of 1,269 yearly average fatal crashes during a four-day holiday period, according to data from NHTSA analyzed by AutoInsurance.org.   

May is a great month in the U.S. It’s the transition of seasons – spring to summer – with everything in full bloom. 

May is also full of national holidays – Mother’s Day, Cinco de Mayo, and of course, Memorial Day – and millions of Americans get in their cars to travel to see loved ones and take a bit of a vacation.  

Unfortunately, each time we get in our cars the risk of a fatal accident has increased over the past couple of years. U.S. roadways saw 42,915 deaths in 2021, according to the latest stats from the National Highway Traffic Administration (NHTSA). 

This is a tragic 10% increase over the previous year, and it represents the largest number of roadway fatalities in the U.S. since 2005.  

It’s understandable that accidents can and do happen, but a notable stat in NHTSA’s data, however, is that fatalities involving alcohol and impaired driving, as well as unsafe driving, were up 5%.  

This is a distressing statistic because these deaths, especially impaired driving fatalities, are preventable. Yet, on holidays like Memorial Day, we see what happens when too many drinks lead to deadly situations on the roads.  

Of these, roughly a third of all driver fatalities occur with a blood alcohol content of .08 (the legal limit) or higher. 

Over the four-day holiday period, driving fatalities are up more than three times as much as a non-holiday. Nationally, about 100 people die every day in car accidents, and of those, 28 people died in drunk driving crashes, or one person every 52 minutes, according to NHTSA 

Any death is tragic because many of these drinking and driving related deaths could be avoided with advanced drunk and impaired driving prevention technology. This tech has been shown to prevent more than 9,400 alcohol-impaired driving fatalities annually, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. 

Ignition interlock devices (IIDs) alone made 390,456 stops to prevent drunk drivers from getting behind the wheel in 2020. 

As evidenced by the statistics, IID technology works because the technology is installed on vehicles of past offenders after courts have mandated its use. This strategy keeps intoxicated people from driving and the roads safer. IIDs have been shown to be 74% more effective in reducing repeat drunk driving offenses than a full license suspension for first time offenders. 

The installation of an IID in an offender’s vehicle also does not pose an intrusion with their daily lives and allows for them to continue driving responsibly to work, taking care of loved ones, etc.  

Across the board, reducing drunk driving this Memorial Day, on holidays and on every day of the year, should be the goal for everyone as it will help curb fatalities on our U.S. roads.  

Expanded use of existing tools, as well as the development of passive alcohol detection technology and the implementation of the Department of Transportation’s new Safe Streets & Roads for All program, we can achieve that goal better than ever before. 

Sabra Rosener, J.D., is the Senior Vice President, Legislative Affairs at Intoxalock. Intoxalock services more than 100,000 customers annually and is an industry leading provider of ignition interlock devices.