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"Columbus,In my last blog entry, I wrote about something that surprised me very much. Based on 2009 FARS data, Columbus Day is the most dangerous holiday of the year for Georgia drivers. Georgia saw 22 deaths from car crashes over the 2009 Columbus Day holiday period. The next closest period was New Year’s Day, when combined with New Year’s Eve. Nineteen people lost their lives in crashes on Georgia roads during that combined period. (That number combines New Year’s Day 2012 with New Year’s Eve 2012 because the data is not yet available for 2010.)

As a Georgia lawyer who handles car accident lawsuits, and sees far too many devastated families, I thought it would be useful for people to know about the dangers of holiday driving and the large number of fatal wrecks that occur. So using the FARS database, I created spreadsheets of the fatal accidents reported in Georgia for the year 2009. FARS is the Fatality Analysis Reporting System, and it is a collection of data maintained by the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”). NHTSA collects data from all 50 states and also from the U.S. territories, and then publishes it in the FARS database. The most recent information available for public search is from 2009. The data only relates to fatal crashes, and not to car accidents that cause terrible personal injuries but do not cause deaths.

The data I saw surprised me completely. I thought New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day would be the most dangerous holidays because I associate that holiday with a lot of drunk driving. It never occurred to me that Columbus Day would be the day with the most deaths from auto accidents.

It’s pretty important to know that so many fatal car crashes occur during the Columbus Day holiday period. I have always been exceptionally vigilant if I get in the car on New Year’s Eve (or New Year’s Day). But it never occurred to me that I should be hyper-vigilant on Columbus Day. In fact, I have not had Columbus Day off in so long that I tend to forget that many people do have the day off. The government takes the holiday off, and so the courts are closed. However, most law firms are open for business on Columbus Day, so I tend to think of it as a regular workday for me. Also, I have never heard of anyone throwing Columbus Day parties, and I tend to associate car accident deaths with days when people tend to drink more.

I was also surprised to see that so many other holidays are associated with a large number of deaths.

Georgia reported that 11 people died in car wrecks over the 2009 Martin Luther King holiday weekend. While that was the smallest number for any of the ten holidays that NHTSA tracks, nonetheless that number is really shocking.

Fourteen people died over the President’s Day weekend.

Georgia reported that 18 people lost their lives in car crashes over the Memorial Day weekend in 2009.

Another 21 people died in car accidents over the Independence Day / Fourth of July holiday.

Fifteen people were killed in car crashes over the Labor Day holiday weekend.

According to the NHTSA statistics, thirteen people died over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

Eleven people died over the Christmas holiday in 2009.

I hope this information will make my readers realize just how serious the number of accidents can be over any holiday weekend – not just at New Year’s.