Memorial Day Fatal Crashes Hit Long-Term High

Henry Hoenig
· 3 min read
Memorial Day weekend is a time of celebration for most Americans, but it's deadly for hundreds of people each year. And it has grown deadlier since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Jerry dug into the data to see what we could learn about the circumstances of those fatal accidents. Here’s what we found:

Key Insights

  • The Memorial Day holiday period saw an average of 436 fatal crashes in 2021 and 2022, the two most recent years for which full fatality data is available. That’s significantly higher than the average of 390 a year over the past decade, and the most for any two-year period since at least 2008.
  • The number of fatal traffic crashes during the holiday period in 2022 hit 453. That’s an 8.6% jump from pre-COVID 2019 and 8.1% higher than in 2021.
  • The number of people killed in fatal traffic crashes during the holiday period in 2022 totaled 502, also the most since at least 2008.
  • Among U.S. cities, Houston, Dallas, and Indianapolis recorded the most fatal crashes during the Memorial Day holiday period. 
  • Among states, Texas, California, and Florida reported the most fatal accidents. Each of the three recorded more than twice as many as No. 4 Georgia.
  • On a per capita basis, Delaware reported the most fatal crashes of any state, as well as the most involving speeding and the most involving drugs.
  • Montana, South Dakota, and Nebraska topped the list of states with the most per capita fatal crashes involving drinking. 
  • Saturday proved the deadliest day on the roads during Memorial Day weekend, followed by Sunday. The single deadliest hour is 11 p.m.-midnight on Saturday, followed by midnight Saturday to 1 a.m. Sunday, and 9-10 p.m. on Sunday.
  • The safest times to drive include Saturday morning after 6 a.m. and Sunday and Monday mornings after 8 a.m.
  • Three fourths (74%) of all traffic fatalities during the Memorial Day holiday are men and 38% are men under the age of 40. 
  • One third (33%) of all Memorial Day holiday fatalities are men and women under the age of 30.
  • Nearly one third (31%) of all Memorial Day holiday crashes involve speeding, while another 30% involve at least one driver with a positive blood-alcohol test. Nearly three fourths (72%) of fatal accidents that involve speeding involve at least one driver who had been drinking.
  • Only 12% of fatal holiday crashes occur on an interstate highway, while 43% occur in rural areas and 49% involve a vehicle leaving the roadway.

Most Dangerous Times

Some days see more fatal crashes than others. Saturday sees the most as some people hit the road and others begin to cut loose.
Memday 24 Day Week 2 X
The number of fatal crashes rises throughout the day, peaking between 11 p.m. and 1 a.m., with 11 p.m.-midnight on Saturday ranking as the single deadliest hour. After midnight, fatal wrecks remain somewhat elevated until around 4 a.m.
Memday 24 Hours 2 X
Three fourths (74%) of fatalities are men and young men are the most common victims. Nearly a quarter of fatalities (24%) are males under the age of 30, while 38% are males under the age of 40.
Memday 24 Age Gender 2 X

States of Risk

Texas records the most fatal crashes during the Memorial Day holiday period by a wide margin, though both Florida and California are also way ahead of the pack.
States Memday 24 Totals 2 X
Delaware sees the most fatal crashes during the Memorial Day holiday weekend on a per capita basis, followed by North Dakota and West Virginia. None of the 10 most populous states rank among the 10 states with the highest rate of fatal crashes per capita. 
Memday 24 States Percap 2 X
We also looked at the number of drinking-related crashes per capita during Memorial Day weekend. Montana and, to a lesser degree, South Dakota stand out. Most of the states among the top 10 are smaller states in the south or west.
Memday 24 States Alc Percap 2 X
Looking at the per capita rate of speeding-related fatal crashes, Delaware again tops the list. It’s followed by Wyoming and South Carolina.
Memday 24 States Speed Percap 2 X
Delaware tops another list, this time the states with the highest per capita rate of drug-related fatal crashes. It’s way out ahead of Vermont and South Carolina.
Memday 24 States Drugs Percap 2 X
At the city level, car-crazy Houston and Dallas recorded the most fatal crashes in the U.S. during the holiday over the past five years. Two midwestern cities—Indianapolis and Chicago—are next, followed by Los Angeles.
Memday 24 Cities Totals 2 X
We looked at per capita rates of fatal crashes in counties with a population of at least 1 million as an admittedly imperfect proxy for metro areas. San Bernardino, near Los Angeles, topped the list. It was followed by Detroit’s Wayne County and Hillsborough County, home to Tampa, Florida.
Memday 24 Mil Counties Crashes 2 X
Jerry also looked at per capita crash rates in counties with a minimum population of 500,000. Marion County, home to Indianapolis, stood out. It was followed by Kern County, California, home to Bakersfield, and New Castle County, Delaware, home to Wilmington.
Memday 24 500 K Counties Crashes 2 X 1


All traffic fatality data is from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. All population data is from the U.S. Census Bureau.The NHTSA defines the Memorial Day holiday period as 6 p.m. Friday through 6 a.m. Tuesday.

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