Nearly 100% Increase in Fatal Car Crashes on Thanksgiving Day, 2-3AM, 6-7PM Most Dangerous

Ben Guess
Nov 10, 2021 · 3 min read
Key Insights:
  • The most dangerous driving days of Thanksgiving week are Thanksgiving Day and the following Saturday.
  • The most dangerous times to drive on Thanksgiving Day are 2-3 a.m. and 6-7 p.m. 
  • The states with the highest fatal highway crash rates per capita on Thanksgiving Day are Mississippi, Wyoming, Louisiana, New Mexico, and Alabama.
  • Fatal crashes double during Thanksgiving week compared to all other weeks of the year. 

Thursday and Saturday are the Most Dangerous Days to Drive

The Thursday (Thanksgiving Day) and the Saturday after Thanksgiving are the worst days to be on the road, with the highest average of fatal highway crashes. Thanksgiving has an average of 176 fatal crashes, and the following Saturday averages 197 fatal crashes. This is nearly double the average daily fatal crash on other days of the year (101 fatal crashes).
An increase in the number of people on the road throughout Thanksgiving makes this a dangerous driving day in general. Traffic is heavier on the Saturday and Sunday after Thanksgiving as people return home. Similar to Thursday evening, an increase in traffic correlates to increased fatal highway accidents on Saturday. 

Most Dangerous Times to Drive on Thanksgiving are Early Morning and Evening

The most dangerous time to drive on Thanksgiving is between 6-7 p.m. Thanksgiving dinner is usually served between 2 and 5 p.m., making 6-7 p.m a common time to drive home for those celebrating locally. With more drivers on the road, there are more opportunities for fatal crashes.
The lack of daylight may also contribute to crashes. By 6 p.m. in November, the sun has fully set everywhere in the contiguous U.S. Drivers therefore navigate dark roads that may be unfamiliar to them while traveling for the holiday. 
The second-highest spike in highway fatalities on Thanksgiving Day occurs early on Thursday, between 2-3 a.m. This is because Thanksgiving festivities often begin on Thanksgiving Eve—a night known as “America’s biggest bar night” or even “Drinksgiving.”

For the Highest Rates of Fatal Thanksgiving Crashes Per Capita, Look South and West

Mississippi, Wyoming, Louisiana, New Mexico, and Alabama have the highest rates of fatal Thanksgiving Day highway crashes per capita, at 3.98, 3.46, 3.35, 3.34, and 3.23 crashes per 100,000 people respectively. The average fatal highway crash rate per 100,000 people on Thanksgiving is 59 times higher than normal in Mississippi, 47 times higher in Wyoming, and 72 times higher in Louisiana, 65 times higher in New Mexico, and 61 times higher in Alabama.
With the exception of New Orleans in Louisiana, most of these states are primarily rural. In rural states, drivers may need to drive further to get home, while navigating dark, potentially unfamiliar highways. All of this increases the risk of a crash.

Conclusion

The most dangerous times to drive during Thanksgiving week correspond to increases in traffic, poor lighting, unfamiliar roads, and an increased likelihood of driving after consuming alcohol. 
Although drivers on the road cannot do anything about other dangerous drivers, they can plan ahead to keep themselves safe by avoiding driving during what are statistically the most dangerous timeframes. Safe drivers can make sure they know their route and ensure that they are not impaired before getting on the road, and plan a route that sticks to well-lit areas during safer driving times if they’re worried.

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