Special Report

The Worst Holidays to Drive, Ranked

With the Thanksgiving holiday approaching, some 54.6 million Americans are expected to travel 50 miles or more from home according to AAA estimates. The surge in motorists on the road will inevitably lead to higher risks on the roads. Each year, there are hundreds of traffic fatalities over the Thanksgiving holiday, which stretches from Wednesday evening through to early Monday morning

Risks associated with holiday driving are by no means limited to Thanksgiving. During every major holiday in the United States, the risk of being involved in a fatal accident goes up. Not only does increased travel create more opportunity for fatal accidents, but also motorists are more likely to be driving impaired over holiday periods, either due to fatigue or alcohol use. 

A new report released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows that some holidays are more dangerous for travel than others. Using data from the NHTSA, 24/7 Wall St. identified the deadliest holidays for drivers. We ranked each of the six major holidays covered by the NHTSA – New Year’s, Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas – by the total number of traffic fatalities reported from 1983 to 2020. 

Since 1983, the share of people killed in accidents involving a driver with a blood alcohol level above the legal limit during a holiday ranges from 39% to 44%. For context, only 30% of all traffic fatalities involved an alcohol impaired driver in all of 2020. (Here is a look at when you’re most likely to die in a drunk driving accident in every state.) 

Fortunately, improved vehicle safety features have contributed to the decline in fatality rates in recent decades when controlling for total vehicle miles traveled. Aside from a slight uptick in fatalities per miles traveled in the first year of the pandemic, American roads have gotten safer nearly every year since the mid-1970s. Indeed, the worst year for traffic deaths for each holiday on this list was at least two decades ago. (Here is a look at the states where car deaths are increasing the most.)

Click here to see the worst holidays to drive, ranked.

Click here to read our detailed methodology.

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