Young People Are Biggest Casualties on Summer's Deadliest Driving Holiday

Henry Hoenig
Updated on Sep 1, 2022 · 3 min read
Labor Day, the unofficial end to the summer driving season, ranks as the deadliest summer holiday for traffic fatalities and second-deadliest holiday all year after Thanksgiving.
The most frequent casualties on Labor Day are young people ages 16-25. Over a 10-year period, 1,000 people in that age group were killed in a vehicle crash during the Labor Day holiday period. More than 70% of them were male.

Key Insights

  • More people died in vehicle crashes during the Labor Day holiday than either Memorial Day or Fourth of July during the decade ending in 2020, the last year for which data is available.The number of Labor Day fatalities rose for 10 straight years. 
  • Those aged 16 to 25 accounted for the most deaths. Speeding and alcohol were more frequently cited as factors in crashes that claimed the lives of 16-25 year-olds than in crashes that killed people outside that age group.
  • Saturdays are the single deadliest day during the Labor Day holiday period, but the worst six-hour stretch was 6 p.m. to midnight Fridays. The deadliest single hour was 9 p.m. Fridays.
  • California, Texas and Florida saw the most traffic fatalities among states overall, while Alaska, New Mexico and Montana saw the most per capita.
Two contributing factors to fatal crashes — speeding and alcohol — were seen more often when the victims were in the 16-25 age group, according to data analysis by Jerry.
Saturdays, including the hours after midnight on Friday, accounted for the most deaths.
The number of fatal crashes generally rises throughout each day, peaking between 6 p.m. and midnight. Saturday and Sunday see the most fatalities in the early morning hours (between midnight and sunrise). The fewest fatalities after midnight occurred on Mondays and Tuesdays.
Smaller states such as Missouri and North Carolina joined the nation’s three most populous states — California, Texas and Florida — on the top 10 list for most fatalities.
Looking at fatalities per capita, most of the worst-hit states have fewer people. All but one could be considered a southern or western state.
Los Angeles, Houston, Dallas, Chicago…. These cities are frequently at or near the top of the list of cities with the most holiday-related traffic deaths. On Labor Day, though, they are joined by Louisville, Ky., and Charlotte, N.C., two mid-sized cities that managed to avoid inclusion on the same lists for Memorial Day and July 4.
To identify potential trouble spots, Jerry looked at which individual roads, grouped by county, were the site of the most fatal crashes during Labor Day weekend. A roughly 10-mile stretch of I-95 just north of Jacksonville, Fla., topped the list, with 21 deaths over 10 years. Two roads in Kentucky (one in Louisville, the other just south of Lexington) made the list, as did a stretch of I-59 just northeast of Birmingham, Ala., and US-219 in mostly rural McKean County, Pa., about halfway between Buffalo, N.Y., and Pittsburgh.

Methodology

Jerry examined traffic fatality data during the Labor Day holiday period from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for the years 2011 through 2020, the last year for which NHTSA data was available. The NHTSA defines the Labor Day holiday period as 6 p.m. Friday through 5:59 a.m. Tuesday.

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