July Fourth Most Dangerous Day on U.S. Roads

Holiday has highest average death toll of any day of the year

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WEDNESDAY, Feb. 3, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Independence Day has the highest average toll of U.S. road deaths, says a study in the latest issue of Injury Prevention.

Researchers analyzed data from the national Fatality Analysis Reporting System for the years 1986 to 2002 and found that, on average, 117 people die each day on U.S. roads. The daily death toll ranged anywhere from 45 to 252 people.

In addition, the researchers found, more road deaths occurred in summer and autumn than in spring and winter, probably because of more traffic on the roads in those seasons. There were more road deaths in August than in any other month. The fewest deaths occurred in January and February.

Road deaths spiked on certain days of the year and the average daily death toll was highest on Independence Day. The study found alcohol was a factor in a higher proportion of road fatalities on July Fourth than on any other day.

The highest number of pedestrian deaths from car crashes occurred on New Year's Day, which ranked fifth for the highest number of daily road deaths. Alcohol was an important factor in New Year's Day crashes. Half the deaths on New Year's Day occurred between midnight and 6 a.m.

In terms of days of the week, there were more road deaths on Saturday than any other day. The peak time for fatalities on Saturday was between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m.

Another study in the same issue of Injury Prevention examined the numbers of children younger than age 5 who died in parked cars as a result of heat. There were 171 such deaths in the U.S. between 1995 and 2002.

The study found that about 25 percent of those children climbed into an unlocked car by themselves, but 75 percent of the children were left in a car by adults. Almost half of those children were being looked after by an adult as part of child care.

Of the 54 children in those child-care cases, 32 were left in the car by a family member who planned to take the child to child care, but forgot and went to work instead with the child still in the car. The remainder of those children were left in vehicles by child-care providers or drivers.

More information

The National Safety Council offers defensive driving tips.

SOURCE: Injury Prevention, news release, Feb. 3, 2005

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