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As a car accident lawyer, I am very familiar with the terrible upsurge in car accident deaths that occur around a holiday. To my shock, I found that — at least for 2009 –


the most dangerous holiday for auto wrecks was Columbus Day.

This research began when I thought I would get some facts about the number of car accident deaths in Georgia to let my readers know more about just which holidays are the most dangerous for driving here in Georgia. I have always believed that forewarned is forearmed, and so knowing the facts could be helpful to all of us in avoiding the deaths that accompany the heavy traffic around holidays.

When I looked up the data, I was extremely surprised to find that the most dangerous holiday of 2009 – the one that generated the most deaths on Georgia roads – was Columbus Day. Twenty-two people died in nineteen different wrecks on Georgia roads on Columbus Day 2009.

I had always assumed that the most dangerous holiday for driving was New Year’s Eve, with Christmas a close second. At New Year’s Eve, of course, we know that many people attend parties until midnight, and that they drink more than they normally would at these parties. They then hit the roads after the New Year begins. As for Christmas, perhaps I assumed there were more deaths because deaths during the Christmas season, especially of children, just seem so devastating to me.

I was equally surprised to see that New Year’s Eve had 2 deaths. I had thought the number would be even higher. One point to note, though: the FARS database that I was using splits New Year’s Day and New Year’s Eve. Since many people hit the roads after they see in the New Year, many of the deaths would occur on New Year’s Day, because they would be after midnight. If you added the deaths that occurred on January 1, 2009, to the deaths that occurred on New Year’s Eve nearly a year later, 19 people were killed in car wrecks over the New Year holiday period.

It would be more accurate to use the data for December 31, 2009, and January 1, 2010, of course, but that data was not available yet. In doing my research, I used the FARS data for 2009 for Georgia. FARS is the Fatality Analysis Reporting System, and is maintained by the National Highway and Traffic Administration. The system is set up so that states and cities fill out certain uniform information about wrecks. Information about the fatal wrecks is then maintained nationally in the FARS database. The database does not include information about wrecks that caused horrific personal injuries unless the wreck also caused a death. The most recent data in the FARS system is from 2009.

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 hardly even think of it as a holiday at all. 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.

So this news caught me by surprise. But I know that from now on, I’m going to be exceptionally careful on Columbus Day, and I hope all my readers will be, also.


Lee’s peers have named her a Georgia SuperLawyer every year for two decades.