The Most Dangerous Holidays in America

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6. Christmas Day
> Estimated fatalities: 105
> Deaths prevented by seatbelts: 38

According to AAA estimates, holiday travel at Christmas will increase this holiday season for the fifth year in a row. About 30% of Americans are expected to travel during this time. From the afternoon of Christmas Eve through Christmas Day, the NSC estimates there will be 105 deaths and an additional 11,200 severe injuries in traffic accidents. This is significantly lower than in previous years. Last year, there were 351 fatalities. This decline is largely because Christmas falls in the middle of the week and the traveling period is significantly shorter than usual. The worst Christmas in recent history was in 2001, when 575 people were killed.

5. New Year’s Day
> Estimated fatalities: 156
> Deaths prevented by seatbelts: 57

People are much more likely to drink and drive around January 1 than during any other major holiday. Nearly half of all 286 traffic fatalities during the New Year’s travel period in 2010 were alcohol related. Between 2007 and 2011, alcohol accounted for 42% of all traffic deaths during the holiday. By comparison, during Christmas, alcohol was a factor in just 35% of fatalities. The 2010 New Year’s period represented a low point for fatalities, at just 286. Traffic deaths ticked up to 348 by 2012. However, since the upcoming New Year’s day — like Christmas — falls in the middle of the week, the total travel period for the holiday is shorter, the estimated 156 fatalities would be the lowest in some time. Safety is another reason the number of fatalities is projected to be so low, as the NSC estimates that 57 lives will saved by seat belts during the holiday.

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4. Labor Day
> Estimated fatalities: 394
> Deaths prevented by seatbelts: 143

According to a AAA estimate, roughly 34.1 million Americans traveled at least 50 miles over the long Labor Day weekend this year. During the holiday period, which ran from Friday evening through midnight Monday, there were nearly 400 traffic-related deaths and more than 42,000 serious injuries, according to the NSC. If this year’s estimate is accurate, there will not have been more than 400 driving fatalities during Labor Day for five straight years. Between 1995 and 2008, there were at least 450 deaths every year.

3. Thanksgiving Day
> Estimated fatalities: 436
> Deaths prevented by seatbelts: 158

Over the six-year period between 2006 and 2011, traffic deaths around Thanksgiving accounted for nearly 15% of all vehicle-related fatalities in November. Between 2001 and 2007, driving fatalities during the holiday were in excess of 500 each year, peaking at 623 in 2006. Over the last five years, however, deaths have not exceeded 500. In 2011, just 375 people died on the road over the holiday, the fewest deaths since at least 1995. This year, the NSC estimates deaths rose to 436, with an additional 46,600 nonfatal injuries, which include all unintentional injuries that require medical consultation, over the travel period running from Wednesday evening through Sunday.

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2. Memorial Day
> Estimated fatalities: 407
> Deaths prevented by seatbelts: n/a

Memorial Day weekend — the first major holiday weekend of the year and widely considered the start of summer — has 13.1% more traffic deaths, on average, than a typical non-holiday weekend. The Monday of the four-day weekend, Memorial Day itself, has 32% more fatalities than the preceding three days, according to a study on holiday fatalities by Arnold and Cerrelli. The reason is likely the increased travel during the last long weekend day. The NSC estimate of 407 traffic deaths during the 2013 Memorial Day weekend is slightly higher than the 367 deaths during the 2012 holiday weekend. Since 2010, driving deaths during the holiday have remained below 400. Before 2010, the last time there were less than 400 deaths was 1998.

1. Independence Day
> Estimated fatalities: 540
> Deaths prevented by seatbelts: 196

The NSC estimates that the Fourth of July will go down as the most dangerous holiday for travelers in 2013 with 540 deaths and nearly 58,000 serious injuries. Drinking and driving played a major role in this. According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, between 2007 and 2011, alcohol accounted for 61 traffic fatalities per day over the Independence Day travel period, more than any other major holiday. Between 2007 and 2008, motor vehicle deaths around Independence Day more than doubled from 184 to 472. However, even the fatality rate that year did not approach the levels of the early 2000’s, when deaths exceeded 500 nearly every year. In 2006, there were 629 automobile-related deaths. In 2002, there were 662.

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