Labor Day is Summer's Deadliest Driving Holiday

Henry Hoenig
· 3 min read
This Labor Day weekend millions of people will hit the road to mark the end of the summer. For a growing number, especially men in their 20s and 30s, the trip will turn fatal.
The Labor Day holiday is the deadliest summer driving holiday, and the second-deadliest driving holiday of the year, behind only Thanksgiving. The number of people killed in traffic accidents over the Labor Day weekend rose 38% from 2012 through 2021, with an average of 447 lives lost every year.
Jerry took a look at the data to see what we could learn about Labor Day traffic fatalities to help American drivers stay safe on the road.
Labor Day 23 Crashes Map 2 X

Key Insights

  • Saturday sees the most fatalities during the Labor Day holiday period, but Friday evening after 6 p.m. sees the most fatalities per hour as millions of people hit the road and others begin celebrating the long weekend.
  • The number of hourly fatal crashes rises throughout each day of the holiday weekend, peaking most days between 8 p.m. and 2 a.m. The fewest fatal crashes are seen in the mornings, between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m.
  • California
    , Texas and Florida experience about twice as many fatal crashes as any other U.S. state. Led by Montana, Wyoming and Mississippi, Western and Southern states dominate the list of states with the most fatalities per capita.
  • Los Angeles, Dallas and Philadelphia top the list of deadliest U.S. cities. In addition to Dallas, two other cities in Texas—San Antonio and Houston—also make the list. 
  • More than three-fourths of drivers involved in fatal crashes during the 2012-2021 Labor Day holiday period were men. One out of five was a man in their 20s and 35% were men in their 20s or 30s.
  • At least one driver tested positive for alcohol in 62% of accidents when a test was conducted. That means that at least 31% of all fatal crashes involved alcohol. 
  • Speeding was involved in 31% of all fatal crashes. Both alcohol and speeding were involved in 14% of all fatal crashes.
  • Half of all fatal crashes (49%) take place in rural areas. Among rural crashes, 69% involve a vehicle leaving the roadway, versus 41% in non-rural areas. 
  • One of every four fatal accidents (24%) that take place in non-rural areas involves a pedestrian. The number of fatal Labor Day crashes involving pedestrians increased 69% from 2012 through 2021.
Of all drivers involved in fatal Labor Day crashes, 74% are under 40 and 77% are men. Men in their 20s are involved in more fatal crashes during the holiday than all people aged 60 and over. Alcohol was involved in about three-fourths of crashes in which at least one driver was in their 20s (73%) or 30s (74%) and a test was conducted, compared to 58% of crashes for all other age groups.
Labor Day 23 Age Gender 2 X
Saturday sees the most fatalities during the Labor Day weekend, but Friday evening after 6 p.m. sees the most fatalities per hour as millions of people hit the road and others begin celebrating the long weekend.
Labday 23 Day Week 2 X
Beginning around 8 a.m., the number of fatal crashes rises throughout each day of the weekend, peaking most days between 8 p.m. and 2 a.m., around the time most bars close for the night. The fewest fatal crashes are seen in the mornings, between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m.
Labor Day 23 Hours 2 X
Not surprisingly, the three most populous states see the most fatalities overall.
Labday 23 States Totals 2 X
But about half of all fatal Labor Day holiday crashes take place in rural areas, and less-populated, more-rural states in the West and South dominate the list of states with the most fatalities per capita. Wide-open Montana and Wyoming see the most.
Labor Day 23 States Percap 2 X
Three big cities in
Texas
—Dallas, San Antonio and Houston—rank among the 10 cities with the most fatalities. But the smaller cities of Charlotte, Louisville and Flushing, Queens also make the list.
Labor Day 23 Cities Totals 2 X
We took a look at per capita fatalities by county as a proxy for urban areas not contained within official city limits. Among counties with a population of more than 1 million, Westchester County in the New York City area; Mecklenburg County, North Carolina (Charlotte); and Fulton County, Georgia (Atlanta) saw the most Labor Day fatalities per capita over the 10-year period.
Labor Day 23 Big Counties Percap 2 X
Among medium-size counties, the seats of Kalamazoo,
Michigan
; Gainesville,
Florida
; and San Luis Obispo County in California ranked as the deadliest.
Labor Day 23 Med Counties Percap 2 X

Methodology

Jerry used traffic fatality data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for 2012-2021 and population data from the U.S. Census Bureau. For the NHTSA, the Labor Day holiday period runs from 6 p.m. on Fridays until 6 a.m. on Tuesdays. 
For the purposes of this study, alcohol involvement means alcohol was found in the bloodstream of at least one driver. A blood-alcohol test was conducted in about half of the fatal crashes.

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