Drinking, Speeding More Common in Deadly Christmas Crashes

Henry Hoenig
· 2 min read
About 312 people lose their lives in fatal crashes each year during the Christmas holiday, with drinking and speeding more frequently involved compared with fatal crashes throughout the year. We looked at 10 years of data on Christmas holiday traffic fatalities. Here’s what we found:
Xmas Fatals Map 2 X

Key Insights

  • A total of 3,127 people were killed in 2,812 fatal crashes during the Christmas holiday period from 2011 through 2020, the last year for which data was available. The most common victims were males between the ages of 16 and 25. 
  • Men are far more frequently killed in traffic crashes than women during the Christmas holiday. Overall, males account for a slightly smaller share of traffic deaths during Christmas (69%) than in general (71%), but males ages 16-35 account for 31% of fatalities at Christmas, versus 27% throughout the year.
  • Both alcohol and speeding are more common in deadly crashes during the Christmas holiday than throughout the year. Speeding is a factor in 41% of fatal Christmas crashes, versus 39% of all deadly crashes throughout the year. At Christmas, at least one driver tested positive for alcohol in 63% of fatal crashes in which a blood-alcohol test was conducted. For the year, the figure was 52%.
  • The two deadliest hours during the Christmas holiday period are 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Christmas Day.

Who, When and Where

Males 16 to 25 years old are the most frequent victims of deadly Christmas crashes, followed by men 26 to 35. Looking at both groups together, males 16 to 35, at least one driver tested positive for alcohol in 68% of the crashes that claimed their lives, compared to 59% throughout the year.
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Christmas Day itself sees the most fatalities during the seven-day holiday period, followed by Christmas Eve.
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Breaking down the number of deadly crashes by day and hour, we find that the deadliest times for driving are between 6 p.m. and midnight on Christmas Day and Christmas Eve. The two deadliest hours are 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Christmas Day.
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The most populous states generally suffer the most fatal crashes both throughout the year and during the holidays. But looking at deaths per capita, states in the Southeast stand out, with Mississippi at the top of the list.
Xmas States Percap 2 X
Los Angeles and Houston, two of the most sprawling U.S. cities, top the list of those with the most Christmas traffic deaths.
Xmas City Totals 2 X
In an effort to find the most dangerous roads, we looked at the number of Christmas period fatalities by road in all U.S. counties. Roads in the Greater Los Angeles area dominate the list, topped by SR-60 in Riverside County. Two roads in coastal Brevard County, Florida, also made the top 10.
Xmas County Roads 2 X


We examined data on fatal crashes during the Christmas holiday period from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The parameters of the holiday period shift each year, depending on which day of the week Christmas falls on that year. We define alcohol involvement in a crash as at least one driver testing positive for any level of alcohol in their blood. That does not mean that the driver was drunk or that drunk driving caused the crash.
To determine the rates of fatal crashes per capita by state, we used population data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

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