THURSDAY, Dec. 30 (HealthDay News) -- The number of emergency department visits that involved underage drinking jumped by more than 250 percent on New Year's Day two years ago, compared with other days of the year, a new U.S. study reveals.

Researchers with the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found that an estimated 1,980 emergency visits on Jan. 1, 2009, had something to do with underage drinking. The national average for such visits during the year as a whole was 546 per day.

Compared with other national holidays, the number of admissions on New Year's Day linked to underage drinking was 191 percent higher than on Memorial Day and 110 percent higher than on the Fourth of July, the researchers explained.

"This stunning increase in underage drinking-related emergency room visits on New Year's Day should be a wake-up call to parents, community leaders and all caring adults about the potential risks our young people face for alcohol-related accidents, injuries and death during this time of year," Pamela S. Hyde, the agency's administrator, said in a news release.

"Parents, clergy, coaches, teachers and other role models must do everything they can to positively influence young people -- including talking with them early and often about the many health dangers underage drinking poses to their physical and emotional health and well-being," Hyde urged.

Kenneth R. Warren, acting director of the U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, described the finding as "very troubling" and said that it was "in line with what we already know about the increase in alcohol-related problems during the winter holidays."

"For example, during Christmas and New Year's, two to three times more people die in alcohol-related crashes than during comparable periods the rest of the year," Warren said. "And 40 percent of traffic fatalities during these holidays involve a driver who is alcohol-impaired, compared to 28 percent for the rest of December."

More information

The U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism offers tips for talking to kids about alcohol.