Is Thanksgiving's Reputation As a Dangerous Driving Day Justified?

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Alex Healey
Updated on Apr 27, 2022 · 3 min read
Unfortunately, as millions of Americans load up the old station wagon and head out to visit loved ones for Thanksgiving, there is a dramatic increase in the number of traffic accidents. Statistically speaking, Thanksgiving is the most dangerous driving day of the year.
Much of this simply comes down to the volume of traffic, as Thanksgiving is one of
America’s busiest road travel days
, but instances of
dangerous driving
also tend to increase over the holiday.
Read on to learn more about driving over Thanksgiving, and find out what you can do to lessen the risk of getting into an accident.
Thanksgiving has a reputation as being a dangerous day to drive.

Why is driving on Thanksgiving so dangerous?

As explained above, the sheer volume of traffic over Thanksgiving is one of the reasons why there is a spike in motor traffic accidents. 
Additionally, many of us are navigating unfamiliar roads, or driving late at night to reach our destination. Both of these factors increase the likelihood of getting into an accident.
However, it doesn’t tell the full story.
While the number of accidents begins to climb on Wednesday before Thanksgiving, and stays high until the following weekend, a study from
Jerry’s data journalism team
has found that the most dangerous time to drive is between 6 and 7 pm on Thanksgiving Day, followed closely by the early morning hours of 1 to 3 am.
Staggeringly, data shows that the U.S. averages almost 100 fatal crashes during each of these time periods (NHTSA crash data, 2005-2019).
The early morning accidents are directly linked to people heading home after Thanksgiving Eve, widely considered to be America’s biggest bar night. As the bars close, drunk drivers cause havoc across the country and unsurprisingly, fatal traffic accidents are the result. 
The same logic can be applied to 6 to 7pm on Thanksgiving Day. Millions of Americans have spent the day drinking and being merry, and the spike in collisions coincides with them attempting to drive home.

Is it fair to pin all of these crashes on Thanksgiving?

As shown in the data, a good chunk of Thanksgiving day car crashes can be attributed to drunk drivers from the night before. It’s true that Thanksgiving day can be a dangerous time to drive, but perhaps not as dangerous as some would have you believe.
Regardless of your Thanksgiving travel plans, taking a few steps to drive safer is always a good idea.

How can you mitigate the danger?

The safest thing to do is to avoid the busiest travel periods. If you are able to take the time off work, leave on Tuesday, before the Thanksgiving traffic begins to ramp up, and don’t head home until the Friday afterwards.
The Red Cross
has assembled tips to help Americans enjoy a safe Thanksgiving. They include:
Make sure your car is in good condition.
  1. Pack emergency supplies and a first aid kit.
  2. Check the weather, and move your travel plans around bad storms.
  3. Make sure the driver is well rested. Rotate drivers on long road trips.
  4. Wear your seatbelt, take it slow, and never drive impaired.
If you follow their advice and use your common sense, you can safely arrive at your destination and enjoy a well-earned break with your family. Happy Thanksgiving!
Be sure to also drive with optimal insurance coverage for your needs! The auto insurance experts at
use AI to compare rates from the top 50 insurance companies.
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