New Year's Eve is more than just the last day of every year; it is also the holiday with the most arrests made by law enforcement agencies across the United States for suspected drinking and driving. This dubious distinction, however, does not extend to fatal crashes related to driving under the influence (DUI). According to data collected and compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) from 2000 to 2009, the Fourth of July is the deadliest U.S. holiday with regard to DUI.
Arrests Vs. Crashes
Some holidays yield greater numbers of DUI arrests across different jurisdictions. In California, for example, citations for DUI are greater in New Year's Eve, but fatal crashes involving blood alcohol content (BAC) levels higher than what is allowed by statute are more likely to happen in the Golden State on the Fourth of July. Thanksgiving is also a significant holiday in terms of DUI crashes; in recent years, Thanksgiving has been a deadlier holiday than New Year's Eve.
Three and four-day weekends are also influential in the number of DUI arrests made. In 2012, for example, there were 440 DUI arrests made in Pennsylvania during the four-day Labor Day weekend. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, there were more DUI crashes during the three days of New Year's weekend in Pennsylvania than during the longer Labor Day weekend.
A great number of DUI arrests made during New Year's Eve are the result of checkpoints or roadblocks, which may or may not have been divulged to the public beforehand. The constitutionality of these roadblocks has been challenged many times; the Supreme Court of the United States has stated that these checkpoints are unconstitutional but lawful because they serve the noble purpose of combating drunk driving. The problem with the Supreme Court's rationale is that roadblocks seem to boost DUI arrest levels but do nothing to reduce the number of fatal car crashes involving alcohol.
It is not surprising that the Fourth of July in California is deadlier than New Year's Eve in terms of DUI. California is a large and populous state with a strong sense of car culture and plenty of public outdoor areas. A typical Fourth of July celebration in the Golden State involves grilling and cold beer during a softball game before night falls and the fireworks start. Police resources are more likely to be utilized to prevent public disturbances at crowded events than o California freeways during the Fourth of July; this may explain the lower DUI arrests but higher rate of fatalities.