Your decision to imbibe on Dec. 31 could leave you with more than a major headache on Jan. 1.
Catastrophe awaits around virtually every corner: Drunken driving deaths spike on New Year's Day, and single-car crashes soar. If that's not enough to convince you to stay at home, it's the deadliest day for pedestrians, and more vehicles are stolen to ring in the New Year than on any other holiday.
"The best thing you can do to keep yourself safe is stay off the road," says Maria Cashy, claims customer service process leader at Progressive Insurance.
More than half of all fatal New Year's Day traffic accidents from 2008 to 2012 involved at least one driver with a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 percent or higher, research done for CarInsurance.com by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found.
During those five years, 612 people died on New Year's Day, and 54 percent of those crashes involved a drunken driver.
Even walking can be dangerous after a night out on the town. Of those 612 people who died, 101 were pedestrians, and 59 percent of them had a blood-alcohol level of at least 0.08 percent.
And you can't always blame the other guy when bad things occur.
Here's a resolution for you: Stay off the road
A study by Progressive Insurance found single-vehicle claims skyrocketed 30 percent on New Year's Day 2012. In 2012, Jan. 1 fell on a Sunday, and Progressive compared the number of claims from that date to the number of claims on the two Sundays before Jan. 1, 2012, and the two Sundays after it.
While Progressive won't release the total number of claims for New Year's Day 2012, the company found there was a:
- 76 percent increase in single-vehicle rollovers;
- 59 percent increase in single vehicles running off the road and striking an object;
- 29 percent increase in single vehicles swerving to avoid something and hitting an object;
- 19 percent increase in striking an object in the road.
While the number of multi-vehicle accidents also increased, they were outpaced by single-vehicle crashes. Cashy can't say precisely why, but icy roads, more people out and about and more late-night driving could all come into play.
Dude, where's my car?
New Year's Day also is a favorite for car thieves. Data from the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) found New Year's Day was the busiest holiday for auto thefts in 2012.
"The thing we can't determine from the report is motive," NICB spokesman Frank Scafidi says. "I would just venture to guess alcohol and drugs" are a factor. "When people are drunk they do stupid things."
Each day, an average of 2,066 vehicles are stolen across the country. But on New Year's Day 2012, thefts jumped to 2,228.
Labor Day was the second most popular holiday for auto thieves in 2012, with 2,158 vehicles stolen.
More drunks on New Year's
When it comes to traffic fatalities, between 2008 and 2012, the number of holiday deaths on New Year's Day actually came in second to the Fourth of July.
During that time, 637 people were killed in traffic accidents on July 4, making it the deadliest holiday. But only 42 percent of those deaths involved at least one driver whose blood-alcohol level was above the legal limit.
Those New Year's Day drinkers must quickly sober, because during that five-year span, there were only 341 traffic fatalities on Jan. 2 -- the lowest number for any date of the year.
If you need to hit the town to celebrate the New Year, Cashy recommends calling a cab or having a designated driver.
If you drive, make sure you're covered
If you're behind the wheel and get into a single-vehicle crash, you could be paying plenty out of pocket.
Most states require motorists to carry liability insurance, but it only covers injuries you cause to another person, or damages you cause to someone else's property. It doesn't cover injuries or damages you cause to yourself.
Collision coverage kicks in when you damage your vehicle. Drivers of older vehicles often drop their collision coverage, but if you get in a wreck, you'll be paying for the repairs out of pocket, or if your car is totaled, you'll have to spring for a new car.
If you injure yourself, medical payments insurance will cover the costs of treating your injuries or of any passengers.
A dozen states, including New York and Florida, require residents to carry personal injury protection (PIP). This covers not only your injuries, but also things such as lost wages and costs for rehabilitation.
You won't be covered for theft unless you have comprehensive coverage.
Before you go out and top up your glass to celebrate the New Year, it's worth your while to check your car insurance and make sure it's topped up, too.