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For Immediate Release,
Contact:
Kathy Lane
Communications Director
(630) 775-2307
kathy.lane@nsc.org
 

2011 Thanksgiving Day Holiday Period Traffic Fatality Estimate 

The 2011 Thanksgiving Day holiday period begins at 6:00 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 23, and ends at 11:59 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 27. Our estimate of traffic fatalities for this 4.25-day holiday period is 434 deaths with a 90% confidence interval (C.I.) of 368 to 509 deaths. Nonfatal medically consulted injuries, i.e. injuries serious enough that a medical professional was consulted, are estimated at 43,400 with a range of 36,800 to 50,900.

The Thanksgiving Day holiday period is always 4.25 days in length. The estimated fatality total for 2011 is about 19% less than the average actual number of fatalities (535) that occurred during the previous six Thanksgiving Day holiday periods for which data are available. An evaluation of recent Thanksgiving Day holiday period estimates is presented in Table 1. 

Table 1. Evaluation of Recent Thanksgiving Day Holiday Period Estimates

Year

Estimate

90% Confidence Interval

Actual

2004

556

476-646

556

2005

610

505-735

605

2006

555

500-615

623

2007

564

499-635

542

2008

479

415-551

484

2009

447

392-508

401

Studies have shown that safety belts, when used, are 45% effective in preventing fatalities among front-seat passenger car occupants. Although the reduction in the risk of fatal injury from wearing safety belts is higher for light-truck occupants at 50%, the lower figure for passenger car occupants is used in the calculations here as the more conservative measure. The most recent data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) indicate that safety belt use by fatally injured passenger car and light truck occupants was 43.4%. Based on this information it is estimated that 154 person’s lives may be saved this Thanksgiving Day holiday period because they will wear their safety belts and an additional 110 lives could be saved if all wore safety belts. 

The average number of traffic fatalities during the six most recent Thanksgiving Day holiday periods was 10.2% higher than similar non-holiday periods (535 vs. 486 deaths). The difference is not statistically significant. 

The terms used in the above discussion were chosen carefully to reflect the level of accuracy of the quantities involved. Estimate is used because the fatality figures are calculated approximately, as opposed to the precision of calculation inferred by the use of the word predict. May is used to indicate the figures express a contingency, whereas will is used to express something that may be expected or is supposed to occur. 

Details of the estimating methodology and a discussion of holiday deaths compared to non-holiday periods can be found here.

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