Holidays are more likely to cause an accident than regular days. The week between Christmas Eve and New Years is the most dangerous for drivers. Thanksgiving follows. Holiday car accidents are often caused by alcohol, but speeding, inclement weather, and distracted driving are also major factors.
Drivers are also more likely to be in an accident on specific days or at certain times. Accidents are most common on weekends, especially in the early morning and late nights. There are many ways drivers can ensure safety while driving during holidays or peak accident times.
Statistics on holiday driving
Driving on major holidays carries additional risk. Before you travel, here are some holiday accident statistics:
- In 2019, 1,087 people were killed in car accidents between Christmas and New Year’s (U.S. Department of Transportation
- In 2019, 194 people died in car accidents (U.S. Department of Transportation
- In 2021 , an estimated 384 motorists could be killed during the New Year holiday period ( National Safety Council).
Most dangerous holidays for driving
Research shows that driving on holidays can be more dangerous than driving on normal days. On average, there were 102 traffic deaths per day in the United States in 2019. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, however, there were 119 deaths per day on six major holidays.
Based on historical data from traffic accidents, every holiday has a different level risk. Based on historical data from the U.S. Department of Transportation, here are the most dangerous holidays to drive.
- Christmas to New Year: The period between Christmas and New Year has been historically the most dangerous for drivers in the United States. It typically lasts from 8.5 to 11.5 calendar days. This includes the week from December 24 to January 2. This period saw 1,087 traffic deaths in 2018.
- Thanksgiving: Thanksgiving is the 2nd most fatal holiday for drivers. In 2018, 513 Americans died in car accidents over the 4.5 days surrounding Thanksgiving. Research shows that Thanksgiving is one the busiest days of car travel. This makes the chance of an accident far greater than any other day.
- Labor Day: In 2018, 414 people died in the 3.5 days surrounding Labor Day. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, this figure is more than 10%. Data also shows that traffic deaths on Labor Day account for more than 10% in traffic fatalities as of September 2018.
- Fourth of July: In 2018, 194 people died in traffic accidents. This day is also the most popular for DUI arrests. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA), 812 motorists were killed in crashes involving drunk drivers between 2014 and 2018.
Why is it so dangerous to celebrate the holidays?
Driving on holidays can be more dangerous than driving on normal days for a number of reasons. The most important factor is alcohol intake. Driving after drinking alcohol is more common on holidays where alcohol is present. According to the NHTSA, roughly one third of all traffic fatalities in America are caused by drunk drivers.
Another reason is the fact that many people travel to their holiday destinations by car in order to visit friends and family, go on vacations, and have fun. Data has proven that driving is the most dangerous mode of transport for decades. Driving long distances on holidays, when roads are congested, increases the risk of a serious accident.
The risk of unsafe driving habits such as distracted driving increases with more people on the roads. Drivers are more likely to text, eat behind the wheel, drive without enough sleep, and have many passengers. This can increase the chance of an accident. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 2800 people were killed by distracted drivers in 2018.
Most dangerous times for driving
Based on data from the NHTSA, Friday is the most dangerous day to drive. It falls between 3:59 and 5:59 p.m. According to the agency, there were 330,000 total crashes on Friday between 3:59 p.m. and 5:59 p.m. in 2019.
Below is a table that shows the breakdown of crashes for each day of week and every time window.
Car accidents are more common on Fridays in the afternoon and evening due to the high number of drivers on the roads. Many people commute home from work and others travel to begin their weekend plans.
The highest number of fatalities occurs Saturdays between 9 p.m. – 11:59 pm. These are also the times when DUI arrests are most likely to occur. Below is a table that shows the fatalities for each day and each period.
Weekend car accidents
Statistics show that Saturdays are statistically more likely to be involved in a fatal car crash than weekends. There were 5794 fatal car accidents in the United States in 2018. On Sunday, there were 5,053 fatalities, slightly more than on Friday with 5,169. Accidents involving cars on weekends are more likely to happen in the early morning and late evening hours.
Staying safe during holidays
Driving during holidays can be dangerous, but there are ways to stay safe. These are some tips:
- Never drink and drive. Alcohol is more prevalent around holidays so make sure you have a designated driver. Don’t get behind the wheel if you have had alcohol.
- Avoid driving during peak travel hours. Plan your trips for days when the roads are less crowded. The weekdays between Monday through Thursday in the morning are the most busy.
- You should consider other modes of transport: Flying is safer than driving and there are fewer accidents. Consider flying or taking the train if you plan to take a long trip during the holidays.
- You should ensure you have sufficient insurance coverage. If you are involved in an accident while on holiday, your auto insurance company will likely cover it. It is a good idea, however, to review your coverage before you travel and to consider increasing your policy limits if there are increased risks of accidents.