Memorial Day Weekend Driving Fatalities are Expected –Many Due to Drunk Driving

For many, Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial start to summer: a season full of friends, family and travel. Many will choose to travel by car to visit and celebrate with loved ones, but tragically, too many will not make it home safely. The National Safety Council estimates nearly 470 people in America will die in preventable traffic crashes from 6 p.m. on Friday, May 26 to 11:59 p.m. Monday, May 29.

“Car travel has the highest fatality rate of any major mode of transportation based on fatalities per passenger mile,” warns Mark Chung, executive vice president of roadway practice at NSC. “The reasons for this, particularly over a holiday weekend such as Memorial Day, are impairment from alcohol and/or another substance such as cannabis, as well as distraction and speed. For the safety and wellbeing of yourself, and the people around you, designate a sober driver or arrange alternate transportation, drive distraction-free and slow down.”

According to NSC estimatesmotor vehicle deaths in the U.S. topped 46,000 for a second consecutive year in 2022, and compared to 2019, the mileage death rate last year increased nearly 22%, indicating a strong need for change. All roadway users – whether driving, walking, biking or scooting – must uphold safe practices to prevent roadway deaths. Employers, policymakers, community leaders and individuals must come together across public and private sectors to prioritize safer roads, safer speeds, safer vehicles, safer people and better post-crash care as part of the holistic Safe System approach to save lives on the road to zero traffic fatalities in the U.S.

Review supplemental information about the Memorial Day holiday fatality estimates and additional motor vehicle data and research at

The National Safety Council (NSC) estimates that 469 people may die on U.S. roads this Memorial Day holiday period. Holidays traditionally are a time of travel for families across the United States. Many choose car travel, which has the highest fatality rate of any major form of motorized transportation based on fatalities per passenger mile. Holidays are also often cause for celebrations involving alcohol consumption, a major contributing factor to motor-vehicle crashes.

Nationwide, alcohol-impaired fatalities (involving blood-alcohol content of 0.08 g/dL or higher) in 2021 represented 31% of the total traffic fatalities. During the 2021 Memorial Day period, 40% of fatalities involved an alcohol-impaired driver. This chart shows the historic trend of the percent of fatalities involving an alcohol-impaired driver.

Memorial Day is observed on the last Monday in May. The holiday is always a 3.25-day weekend consisting of Friday evening, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. In 2023, the Memorial Day weekend extends from 6 p.m. Friday, May 26 to 11:59 p.m. Monday, May 29.