How dangerous is driving on New Year's in Florida?

The holiday has been marked by fatal crashes in recent years.
Published Dec. 26, 2017

Lately, New Year’s Day has been one of the most dangerous for drivers in Florida.

From 2014 to 2016, 34 deadly crashes happened on the holiday in the state, according to federal data, an average of more than 11 each year.

Fatal crashes per day in Florida, 2014-2016

(Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System.)

It’s one of the worst days of the year for fatal crashes. During the past three years, an average day has just seven. Only five days averaged more ― none with more than 13.

Midnight to 3 a.m. is the worst time of day on Jan. 1, when nearly 30 percent of the day’s fatal crashes happen. On New Year’s Eve, it’s the evening that’s dangerous ― 44 percent of the crashes came between 6 and 9 p.m.

In general, fatal crashes cluster during the stretch from the end of October through January 1. They bunch up again around March, another particularly dangerous month.

“It typically deals with holiday traffic for Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's and spring break in March,” said Sgt. Steve Gaskins, Florida Highway Patrol spokesman.

Larry Coggins, executive director of Mothers Against Drunk Driving’s West Central Florida office, said Hillsborough County is the deadliest county in Florida when it comes to alcohol and impairment crashes.

MADD announced a campaign with Uber on Thursday encouraging people to find designated drivers before they get drunk. Coggins, who previously worked with the FHP, said the decision should be an easy one.

“It’s all pretty simple, but unfortunately, every single day a victim comes to MADD,” he said.

New Year’s Day, like other holidays, show an unfortunate consequence of driving after celebrating with alcohol, Coggins said.

Across the country, between Christmas and New Year’s Day, the percentage of crashes involving alcohol spikes, according to the National Institutes of Health report.

The FHP will boost its presence on highways and major roads through January 1, Florida’s Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles announced.

And throughout Florida, between the Friday before Christmas and the morning of January 2, AAA will provide free towing to anyone who calls for it.

But after the new year begins, there is often a bit of a break. January and February generally have fewer deadly crashes than December.

Coggins stressed that Florida roads are dangerous all year long. Historically, the deadliest full month is March, and although he’s looked at reasons from spring break to spring training, there’s no one clear culprit.

And overall, the rate of fatal crashes year-round is increasing, fast ― from 6.4 a day in 2014 to 8 in 2016.

Fatal crashes by year in Florida, 2014-2016