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The 10 Deadliest Holidays to Drive [2021 Update]

Things to remember...
  • From 2016 to 2018, 1,349 fatal crashes occurred in the United States on Independence Day
  • Memorial Day and Labor Day were the second and third deadliest holidays to drive
  • Summer holidays tend to have more fatal crashes, especially drunk driving-related
  • With people breaking free from quarantine cabin fever to celebrate, we predicted fatal crash spikes for Labor Day 2020
  • This article features the most recent data from the NHTSA

During the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic, we saw a substantial decrease in fatal crashes on our nation’s roadways as folks quarantined at home and traveled less. This decrease was especially true given that drunk driving dropped during COVID-19.

But make no mistake — we’re entering the peak period for the deadliest holidays to drive now that people will have access to the vaccine. And as states begin to reopen for business following the most recent wave of coronavirus closures, traffic fatalities will again rise.

Historically, we predicted that this rise would be especially felt during the Labor Day weekend, a time when traffic fatalities, especially drunk driving-related deaths, are significantly high. As the vaccine rolls out over the next several months, we’re predicting similar spikes throughout the year once again. 

We’ll cover the holiday death statistics in this study for all major holidays in the United States. But there are other consequences as well.

Drunk driving leads to court costs, jail time, and license suspensions. The drunk driver may have to get high-risk auto insurance, which costs are a great deal more than regular auto insurance.

Then there is the coronavirus pandemic, which threatens to spike fatal crashes even for the most dangerous holidays. Why?

After being cooped up at home over the past year, we imagine that holidays throughout this year will bring many people out to party at the nation’s beaches, parks, and other hotspots, even as the World Health Organization and other agencies recommend continued social distancing.

In this study, we have ranked the 10 most dangerous holidays for driving. We looked at fatal crashes on those holidays from 2016 to 2018. We’ll take a look at the particular roadway statistics of these holidays and why this year may see a spike in holiday traffic deaths over previous years.

Finally, we’ll turn to some safety tips for celebrating cautiously, especially during an ongoing public health pandemic such as the coronavirus.

We’ve been analyzing the phenomenon of holiday fatal crashes for four years now. As we move into our latest analysis, it’s important to note that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports on fatal crashes and that each wreck can result in multiple deaths.

Read on to find out what holidays are the deadliest for drivers and passengers, and to learn some ways you can be safer this Labor Day. Let’s get started.

Table of Contents

The 10 Deadliest Holidays for Driving in the U.S.

We all love to celebrate one or many of our nation’s biggest holidays. Holidays like Independence Day or Cinco de Mayo mean parties and fireworks. Ones like Christmas or Easter mean time with family and good food. And many of these holidays mean time off of work, too, something we all enjoy.

Sadly, many holidays result in a spike in fatal crashes across the country, with more people on the road and a sizable increase in drunk driving incidents.


In the table below, we’re offering some statistics on the current 10 deadliest holidays for driving in the United States, including the total number of fatal crashes on that holiday from 2016 to 2018 and the average number of annual fatal wrecks on that holiday during the same time period.

10 Deadliest U.S. Holidays for Auto Accidents: Three-Year Study
HolidayTotal Fatal CrashesAverage Fatal CrashesRank
Independence Day1,349449.671
Memorial Day1,3444482
Labor Day1,330443.333
Columbus Day1,3264424
Father's Day1,318439.335
Mother's Day1,252417.336
Veterans Day1,1763929
Cinco de Mayo1,16138710

As you can see, this list compares drinking-heavy holidays, like Independence Day, with holidays that see a big increase in traffic, like Columbus Day. Let’s take a closer look at each of these holidays and why they are so deadly for Americans celebrating them and hitting the road.

These results have changed slightly since our previous ranking of the deadliest holidays to drive. Veterans Day has become a safer holiday to drive, while the top four deadliest holidays, three of which are summer celebrations, have merely shifted positions among themselves. Cinco de Mayo became a deadly holiday since our last ranking, moving off of the safest list.

#10 – Deadly Holiday: Cinco de Mayo

  • Three-year total fatal crashes: 1,161
  • Average fatal crashes: 387

Beginning our countdown of the 10 deadliest driving holidays in the United States is Cinco de Mayo, celebrated each year on May 5. While many Americans believe Cinco de Mayo to be Mexico’s version of Independence Day, this is only a myth.

Cinco de Mayo actually commemorates the unlikely victory of the Mexican army over the French military under Napoleon III on May 5, 1862, at the Battle of Puebla.

It’s largely unknown why the holiday is celebrated so widely in the United States, but for most Americans, it means eating Mexican food and drinking margaritas and tequila.

In 2018, 429 crashes killed people on American roadways during the Cinco de Mayo holiday period. This increase was significant as last year we found Cinco de Mayo to be one of the safest roadway holidays.

With the increase in drunk driving incidents, local law enforcement agencies from coast to coast are setting up DUI checkpoints and taking other measures to reduce drunk driving-related incidents.

Auto insurance for impaired drivers who are caught in the act is almost always more expensive and difficult to attain. Protect yourself, your neighbors, and your pocketbook by avoiding driving under the influence at all costs.

#9 – Deadly Holiday: Veterans Day

  • Three-year total fatal crashes: 1,176
  • Average fatal crashes: 392

Celebrated on November 11 each year, Veterans Day was originally known as Armistice Day and commemorated the end of World War I. While Memorial Day honors fallen American military members specifically, Veterans Day celebrates all veterans. The day usually includes parades and celebrations by local veterans groups, such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW).

In 2018, 370 fatal crashes occurred during the Veterans Day holiday period on roadways across the United States. Since so many people have the day off work and many attend events such as parades or other community celebrations, the increase in traffic leads to a noticeable and unfortunate increase in driving-related fatalities.

#8 – Deadly Holiday: Thanksgiving

  • Three-year total fatal crashes: 1,215
  • Average fatal crashes: 405

Celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November, Thanksgiving is perhaps the most American holiday following Independence Day. It commemorates how in 1621, the Wampanoag Native Americans shared their autumn harvest with the British colonists at Plymouth.

The actual history of this holiday is much more complex, however. Before the settlers at Plymouth shared this supposed meal, the Native Americans and Europeans had been trading relatively peacefully for about 100 years. That changed, sadly, when Europeans began kidnapping native peoples and selling them into slavery. 

Thanksgiving today usually means big family dinners and football, both events that result in a lot of drinking. With increased traffic and drunk driving, too many people die on Thanksgiving while on the road.

Thanksgiving driving statistics show that, on average, 304 deadly wrecks happen during each Thanksgiving holiday period—more than Christmas or New Year’s.

#7 – Deadly Holiday: Halloween

  • Three-year total fatal crashes: 1,216
  • Average fatal crashes: 405.33

Our modern Halloween holiday has its roots in the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, where Celts dressed up in costume and danced around large fires to ward off spirits. Celebrated each year today on October 31, folks are probably not surprised to see Halloween on our list of the deadliest driving holidays.

Thankfully, Halloween is ranked as the seventh deadliest holiday this year. In our 2016 study examining which holiday was linked to the most fatal crashes, it was tied for the second deadliest holiday to drive, so we believe concentrated safety initiatives surrounding this spooky holiday are working.

While children typically celebrate by trick-or-treating, adults are more likely to attend parties or events such as bar crawls where large amounts of alcohol are consumed.

We discovered in our 25-year study analyzing Halloween fatal car crash statistics that both children and pedestrians have a higher risk of being involved in fatal crashes on Halloween than on a typical day.

Law enforcement agencies around the country are cracking down on Halloween drunk driving.

During the Halloween holiday period in 2018, a record of 385 deadly wrecks occurred on roadways across the United States. The NHTSA found that more than 44 percent of these crashes were drunk driving-related incidents. Deaths from such wrecks are especially tragic because drunk driving is an easily avoidable choice more often than not.

With someone dying every 51 minutes in the United States from drunk driving according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), we think it’s important to know what the deadliest and safest states for drunk driving. Given the increase in drinking and children on the street, many people believe that moving Halloween to a Saturday would consistently make the holiday safer for all.

#6 – Deadly Holiday: Mother’s Day

  • Three-year total fatal crashes: 1,252
  • Average fatal crashes: 417.33

Mother’s Day has a much longer history than Father’s Day. Though it became an official United States holiday in 1914, the History Channel explains that Mother’s Day has much earlier origins:

“Celebrations of mothers and motherhood can be traced back to the ancient Greeks and Romans, who held festivals in honor of the mother goddesses Rhea and Cybele, but the clearest modern precedent for Mother’s Day is the early Christian festival known as ‘Mothering Sunday.'”

With celebrations ranging from backyard brunches to community picnics, Mother’s Day brings a significant increase in traffic. On already congested Interstate 90, for instance, the beginning of Mother’s Day weekend is the second-busiest traffic day of the year, according to the Massachusetts Department of Transportation.

More traffic typically equals more traffic fatalities. In 2018, for instance, the Mother’s Day holiday period saw a significant spike in deadly car crashes. How many fatal crashes happened that time period? 422.

There are nearly 12 million single mothers in the United States, and we want especially to celebrate them year-round. To that end, we’ve gathered some useful information for single mothers seeking auto insurance.

#5 – Deadly Holiday: Father’s Day

  • Three-year total fatal crashes: 1,318
  • Average fatal crashes: 439.33

Washington State first recognized Father’s Day on June 19, 1910. But it didn’t become a nationally recognized holiday until President Richard Nixon recognized the day in 1972. Today the holiday honors America’s 70 million-plus fathers, and usually includes barbecues and other celebratory events.

Especially thanks to the #TellThemNow campaign, Father’s Day offers a unique opportunity for fathers and their children to have open and honest conversations about their feelings for one another.

Sadly, Father’s Day sees a spike in traffic overall and in drunk driving incidents specifically. Between 2016 and 2018, an average of nearly 439 deadly wrecks happened each Father’s Day holiday period on roadways across the United States.

Sometimes these crashes are the unfortunate result of distracted driving. To that end, check out our list of the best audiobooks for kids on road trips to help keep them occupied while parents focus on the road.

#4 – Deadly Holiday: Columbus Day

  • Three-year total fatal crashes: 1,326
  • Average fatal crashes: 442

Columbus Day became a federal holiday in 1937 to celebrate the landing of Christopher Columbus in the Americas in 1492. The holiday typically falls on a Monday toward the middle of October.

Since the 1970s, the holiday has been the most controversial federal holiday to be celebrated, as the man it celebrates, Christopher Columbus, came to the Americas and claimed the land, thus stealing it from the native people who populated this continent.

Alternative holidays, such as Indigenous Peoples Day, have been proposed and adopted by many places across the country.

Given that many people have the Monday of Columbus Day off of work, giving them a three-day weekend, traffic sees a significant rise on the holiday.

Though the holiday is not really known for parties, this increase in traffic leads to more roadway fatalities and with an average of 442 fatal crashes per year, brings the Columbus Day holiday period to the number four spot on our list of deadliest driving holidays.

#3 – Deadly Holiday: Labor Day

  • Three-year total fatal crashes: 1,338
  • Average fatal crashes: 446

Labor Day is celebrated on the first Monday of September. According to the History Channel:

“It was created by the labor movement in the late 19th century and became a federal holiday in 1894. Labor Day weekend also symbolizes the end of summer for many Americans, and is celebrated with parties, street parades, and athletic events.”

Labor unions come out of this important employment history of our nation, and there are special deals on auto insurance for union members to this day. Given that the holiday is a day of parties for many people celebrating the end of summer, it’s also, sadly, a day when many Americans die on our roadways.

After looking at the statistics for Labor Day car accidents, we found that the Labor Day holiday period averages 446 fatal crashes per year. In our research, we discovered two factors in fatal crashes that were different compared to the average day.

  • 3.7 percent more crashes happened at night
  • 3.3 percent more crashes happened in rural areas

It is certainly one of the deadliest holidays for American passengers and drivers from coast to coast. In fact, in our three previous studies, Labor Day came in as the deadliest holiday to drive twice and was in the No. 2 spot once.

Labor Day is actually the only holiday to rank among the top 3 deadliest holidays for all of our research studies.

Though it sees fewer deadly wrecks than Memorial Day for this year’s study, both holidays share characteristics such as an increase in drunk driving and traffic more generally.

In the graphic below, we look at two categories of fatal crashes that increased considerably during Labor Day Weekend over a 3-year time period: rural fatal crashes and nighttime fatal crashes.

Fatal crashes in rural setting grew 3.26 percent on Labor Day Weekend, but grew considerably more during Labor Day itself — 5.55 percent more than the average. Fatal crashes during nighttime were the opposite: They increased by 3.72 percent on Labor Day Weekend but jumped just 0.46 percent during Labor Day.

This year, we are also likely to see a surge of fatal crashes this Labor Day weekend compared to years past. This is because people have been cooped up in their homes due to stay-at-home orders and may travel more than typically to have fun or visit family.

With Americans wanting to party and have a good time, people will likely drink and drive, which will cause fatal crashes to spike. Add that to current statistics that people are speeding more than typical and the fatal crashes this Labor Day weekend could spike compared to previous years.

#2 – Deadly Holiday: Memorial Day

  • Three-year total fatal crashes: 1,344
  • Average fatal crashes: 448

Observed on the last Monday of May, Memorial Day honors the men and women who have died while serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. 

We’re committed to honoring our military members, and so we’ve written about seven tips for finding cheap veterans auto insurance for military service members.

Part of the reason Memorial Day is such a dangerous day to drive is that it is also the unofficial start of summer for most Americans. So beyond a somber day of remembrance, it’s become a national day of get-togethers and parties much like Independence Day. Memorial Day sees a spike in drunk driving incidents. Last year, in fact, Memorial Day had more fatal crashes than any other holiday.

In addition, Memorial Day is consistently one of the deadliest holidays for drivers and passengers on U.S. roadways. Currently, it holds the second-deadliest rank, though in 2019 it was the deadliest holiday for drivers and passengers on America’s roadways.

On Memorial Day of that year, the National Safety Council estimated that 343 to 420 people died. It’s also become an increasingly dangerous holiday on our nation’s roadways. Just going back to 2017, it didn’t even make our list of holidays linked to the most fatal crashes.  

However, this year, there was another foe that threatened to make the highways even more unsafe during Memorial Day. That foe? The coronavirus pandemic.

As states began to reopen a variety of businesses and venues following the initial coronavirus lockdown, this Memorial Day may have been even more deadly than those in the past. During the Memorial Day weekend in 2020, Minnesota had the highest number of people killed in vehicle crashes in 10 years.

As thousands of people flocked to beaches and other celebratory locations, Memorial Day in 2020 may have even passed the Fourth of July in the number of fatal crashes on U.S. roadways.

On Saturday, May 9, 2020, the city of Naples, Florida, decided to reopen its beaches following a months-long closure due to the COVID-19 crisis. Despite orders to maintain social distancing even as the beach reopened, folks packed onto the beautiful stretch of sand until it quickly became overcrowded.

Naples councilman Gary Price explained that the beach was “just packed,” adding that “there were clearly way too many people for the area.” This should not be all that surprising.

After being largely stuck at home for weeks on end, people jumped at the chance to hit the beach and get outside, even if it put them in danger given the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

For better or for worse, states have begun to reopen businesses and institutions, from movie theaters to state parks to bars. Memorial Day on Monday, May 25, 2020, was the first major holiday to happen under the tiered reopening of the American economy. That meant an influx of people was hitting the road after going to those movie theaters, state parks, and bars.

The spike in traffic is already being seen, in fact. As of May 9, 2020, counties across the United States were experiencing increases in roadway usage. In fact, COVID-19 Community Mobility Reports found that of 2,633 U.S. counties:

  • 600 had increases in retail and recreational traffic
  • 1,387 had increases in grocery and pharmacy traffic
  • 1,260 had increases in residential traffic

The map below illustrates the number of counties where roadway usage increases have been reported by traffic category. As you can see, traffic is increasing especially in rural areas of the United States. Retail and recreational traffic is on the rise in particular and increasing quickly in regions such as central Texas.

View as image

Especially pertinent to Memorial Day: Many counties have experienced an increase in park traffic, including local, state, and national parks — popular places to hold Memorial Day celebrations. Florida’s Orange County, for instance, saw a 10 percent increase in park-related traffic alone.

All this means that we probably saw an increase in roadway fatalities on Memorial Day weekend this year. With surges in speeding and drunk driving, local and state law enforcement agencies are going to be stretched even thinner than they already are under the current COVID-19 crisis.

#1 – Deadliest Holiday: Independence Day

  • Three-year total fatal crashes: 1,349
  • Average fatal crashes: 449.67

Despite what many may think, Independence Day, often called the Fourth of July, has only been a holiday since 1941. It commemorates July 4, 1776, when delegates from the original 13 colonies formally adopted the Declaration of Independence, a document separating this nation from the imperial power of Great Britain.

Independence Day brings with it a lot of festivities, including fireworks, barbeques, and excessive drinking. This last activity is largely what makes Fourth of July roadways so deadly for U.S. drivers. The Department of Transportation reports that there are a few tragic statistics to keep in mind from July 4, 2018, alone:

  1. Many deaths: 193 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes. Of those fatalities, 40 percent (78) occurred in alcohol-impaired crashes. This compares to 2017 when 38 percent of the July 4 holiday period fatalities occurred in alcohol-impaired-driving crashes.
  2. Lots of DUIs: Of those who died in alcohol-impaired crashes, 71 percent were in a crash involving at least one driver or motorcyclist with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .15 or higher.
  3. The dangers of nighttime driving: Of those 78 people who died in alcohol-impaired crashes, all but nine occurred during the nighttime (6 p.m. to 5:59 a.m.).
  4. DUI deaths back to 2014: If you look back to 2014, 812 people were killed during alcohol-impaired crashes during the Independence Day weekend.
  5. More than the DUI deaths average: With the percentage of drunk driving deaths generally at 30-32 percent per year, a disproportionate number of DUI deaths occur on Independence Day weekends.

Considering the national BAC limit is .08, these statistics mean people are drinking heavily across the nation on Independence Day. Tragically, this has led to thousands of deaths over the last decade.

Though our previous three studies on the most fatal roadway holidays have placed Independence Day in the top five deadliest holidays, this year it has moved to become the holiday with the most fatal crashes. But it might not hold the top place long.

Places from coast to coast, from Coronado, California, to America’s birthplace, Plymouth, Massachusetts, are canceling their annual Independence Day celebrations in light of the current coronavirus outbreak. That means Memorial Day, the first major holiday to occur as COVID-19 restrictions lightened, could take the top spot on the list of deadliest holidays on America’s roads.

One of America’s great feelings of pride is that it essentially jump-started the auto industry in the early 1900s. Unfortunately, over a century later, it bears a dubious distingstuion with its primary auto makes involved in a high number of fatal crashes.

In our study of which auto makes get in the most fatal crashes, three top American auto manufacturers — Ford, Chevrolet, and Dodge — were in the top five of all manufacturers for the total number of fatal crashes. Together, they accounted for 39 percent of all fatal crashes for all auto brands during our study period.

Safer Days of Celebration for Driving Across America

Across the board, most holidays see an increase in traffic and thus, roadway fatalities. This unfortunate aspect of the United States’ celebratory and commemorative days will likely always be a problem, despite concentrated public efforts to reduce traffic fatalities—especially drunk driving-related—during holiday periods.

But in many places, those efforts by law enforcement and public safety officials are working. Thus, after studying the 10 deadliest holidays for driving in the country, we wondered what holidays held the converse position as the safest holidays for drivers and passengers on our nation’s roadways.

In the table below, we’re offering some statistics on the current five safest holidays for driving in the United States, including the total number of fatal crashes on that holiday from 2016 to 2018 and the average number of annual deadly wrecks on that holiday during the same time period.

Five Safest U.S. Holidays for Auto Accidents: Three-Year Study
HolidayTotal Fatal CrashesAverage Fatal CrashesRank
Martin Luther King Jr.'s Birthday1,0323442
New Year's Day1,033344.333
Ash Wednesday1,043347.674 (tie)
St. Patrick's Day1,043347.674 (tie)

In this ranking of safest holidays for driving, we are looking at the four-day period surrounding the holiday itself. Most folks probably aren’t surprised to see Martin Luther King’s birthday or Ash Wednesday on this list, but New Year’s Eve, Christmas, and New Year’s Day might be less expected given their communal and celebratory nature.

Let’s take a closer look at each of these holidays and why they rank safer than other holidays for Americans on the road.

#4 (tie) – Safe Holiday: St. Patrick’s Day

  • Three-year total fatal crashes: 1,043
  • Average fatal crashes: 347.67

Beginning our countdown of the five safest holidays in the United States is one many folks will be surprised to see on this list: St. Patrick’s Day. Celebrated on March 17 of each year, St. Patrick’s Day commemorates the death of St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, and is largely considered a celebration of Irish heritage more generally today.

Though St. Patrick’s Day is often celebrated by drinking, which may lead to an increase in drunk driving incidents, it is not as widely celebrated as most of the other holidays on this list. That means March 17 doesn’t see a spike in roadway usage, a hallmark of safer driving holidays.

#4 (tie) – Safe Holiday: Ash Wednesday

  • Three-year total fatal crashes: 1,043
  • Average fatal crashes: 347.67

Tied for fourth place in the five safest holidays for driving in the United States is Ash Wednesday, a central holiday in the Christian tradition, especially for Catholics. Traditionally, Ash Wednesday is a day of fasting and prayer marking the beginning of Lent, the approximately six weeks preceding the Easter Sunday holiday.

Given that Ash Wednesday is typically a day of fasting, celebrations centered on food and drink are rare. That leads to fewer drunk driving-related incidents on our nation’s highways than occur on other holidays, religious or secular.

Despite this reduction in DUIs on Ash Wednesday, the holiday period still sees an average of 261 deadly wrecks each year. In 2018, that number of fatal accidents tragically spiked to 308.

Since we have been studying the deadliest and safest roadway holidays, however, Ash Wednesday has consistently been included in our list of the five safest holidays for fatal car wrecks.

#3 – Safe Holiday: New Year’s Day

  • Three-year total fatal crashes: 1,033
  • Average fatal crashes: 344.33

January 1 of every year is known as New Year’s Day. With most people off work — and many staying home with their families or nursing hangovers from celebrations the night before — traffic decreases significantly on New Year’s Day.

New Year’s Day involves rituals for many people that represent starting anew, such as eating black-eyed peas and collard greens.

It’s true: New Year’s Day has many of us making resolutions, from eating healthier to reading more.

Some folks might be looking to spend less money in the new year, and one way to do that is to explore the different types of auto insurance coverage available to you and your family.

#2 – Safe Holiday: Martin Luther King Jr.’s Birthday

  • Three-year total fatal crashes: 1,032
  • Average fatal crashes: 344

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday is a federal holiday celebrated on the third Monday of January each year. The day is meant to commemorate the contributions of the civil rights movement’s most prominent leader and activist.

Many celebrate the day by listening to or reading his most famous speech, “I Have a Dream.”

An average of 258 deadly car wrecks takes place on America’s roadways each Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday period.

The holiday has become a major commercial holiday that brings many people traveling to and from shopping centers and car lots, making major highways and arteries more congested than on a typical business day.

#1 – Safest Holiday: Christmas

  • Three-year total fatal crashes: 1,010
  • Average fatal crashes: 336.67

Celebrated on December 25 each year, Christmas marks the birth of Jesus Christ in the Christian tradition. It has been a federal holiday in the United States since 1870. 

Christmas is the safest driving holiday because December 25 and the days right around it see a significant reduction in roadway usage overall.

This leads to just 252 fatal wrecks on average per year which is perhaps surprising given that the holiday is the biggest commercial holiday and most widely-celebrated holiday in the United States.

Many people choose to buy new cars over the Christmas holiday, so it’s helpful to know which automobiles are cheaap to insure.

Tips to Celebrate Holidays Responsibly

When it comes to reducing the number of roadway fatalities during holiday celebrations, there are steps we can all take to be safer and to act more responsibly on behalf of our neighbors and families while on the road.

Here are three solid and easy-to-enact tips to celebrate holidays responsibly:

  • Don’t drink too much. Overindulging in alcohol can lead to all types of bad decisions, from drunk driving to alcohol poisoning. Avoid the issue altogether by limiting the amount of alcohol you drink and making sure to drink plenty of water alongside that alcohol.
  • Plan for a ride. If you know or even think you might drink too much to drive yourself home from a celebration, plan for a ride home ahead of time. Many bars and restaurants offer free non-alcoholic drinks to designated drivers, which is an added benefit of planning ahead.
  • Be a responsible host. If you are hosting a party where alcoholic drinks are served, it’s your responsibility to make sure your guests can get home safely. This may mean offering them your guest room or couch or calling them a taxi or rideshare service if necessary.

It’s always better to call a taxi or a sober friend if you’re even questioning your ability to drive safely.

On average, almost 30 people die each day in drunk driving-related incidents across the United States. That’s 30 people with families and friends who love them and count on them. That’s 30 people who don’t have to perish. Celebrate responsibly and help keep our nation’s roadways as safe as possible.

The Experts Weigh In: Deadliest Holidays to Drive

We asked a variety of relevant professionals such as transportation experts and lawyers to weigh in on the issue of increased fatalities on America’s roadways during certain holidays. Read on to find out what they had to say.

Deadliest Holidays for Driving in the U.S.

“Tens of millions of Americans hit the road each year to celebrate the holidays with friends and relatives, often traveling long distances under stress and in hazardous weather.”

How will we see changes to this—possible spikes, decreases, etc.—as the country begins to reopen from the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic?
“The outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has created a global crisis that has had a deep impact on the world and our everyday lives. However, the U.S. economy is trying to recover from coronavirus, and now more than half of the states have started to reopen their economies in meaningful ways.

Several more are letting certain counties or regions reopen while keeping the areas worst hit by the virus shut down.

People want to get back to their normal lives, but the virus is still existing, and many of us have to change plans for holidays and events keeping with the social distancing measures that are necessary to slow the spread of the coronavirus disease.

This will significantly decrease the possible accidents and fatalities.”

What roadways see a particular increase in traffic incidents and fatalities during holidays? Why?
“More than 55 million people were making plans to start the holiday season with a trip of 50 miles or more from home on Thanksgiving in 2019. Due to that Thanksgiving 2019 has the second-highest holiday travel volume.

However, the holiday celebrating times are also some of the most dangerous periods. From 2016 to 2018 3,399 traffic fatalities have occurred on Thanksgiving and Christmas, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Here are deadliest highways for holiday travel:

  • I-95 (Florida to Maine)
  • I-80 (California to New Jersey)
  • I-35 (Texas to Minnesota)
  • I-20 (Texas to South Carolina)
  • I-10 (California to Florida)”

What are some safety tips you have for driving safely during a holiday?
“Holidays bring a number of unique driving risks, especially when people plan to go to unfamiliar places. Most of the people in the U.S. prefer to celebrate holidays with friends and close relatives and the majority of them usually plan to drive during them. So if you are planning to drive during the upcoming holidays, we’ve prepared some safety tips to take with you on the road.

  1. Avoid alcohol: This may be one of the most dangerous things during the holidays. The usage of alcohol can negatively impact your vision, which can cause serious damage. Never risk your own and your family’s safety. Also, remember that during the holidays, control is much stronger, and it is likely that you will get a penalty for drinking and driving.
  2. Drive slowly: Always remember to put the safety of everyone in your car first by avoiding speeding during the holidays. Be patient and let other drivers pass you.
  3. Concentrate on the road: It is very important to focus only on the road while driving because using a mobile phone or texting messages can lead to dangerous traffic accidents.
  4. Prepare your vehicle: Make sure you have done some check-ups. Well-maintained tires are integral to a safe drive, so do not forget to check the pressure in your tires before the road. If you need to replace them, do it before the trip.”

Why are holidays especially risky for drivers and passengers?
“The probability of getting into a driving accident increases during periods when there are more cars on the road. And also as during the holidays the number of alcohol-impaired drivers increases, it becomes risky for both drivers and passengers. The weather, in turn, can cause some dangerous conditions which can result in drivers facing dangerous driving decisions.”

Nathan Spears, the proud owner of a 1967 Alfa Romeo, is a managing editor at Blaque Diamond.
Blaque Diamond creates custom wheels for sports coupes, luxury sedans, and SUVs.

Traditionally, summer holidays (Independence Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day) are the deadliest on U.S. roadways. How will we see changes to this—possible spikes, decreases, etc.—as the nation begins to reopen from the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic?
“The coronavirus emptied America’s highways and invited a surge in reckless driving behavior and excessive speeding. Now that the U.S. roadway system is slowly beginning to reopen and the summer holidays are soon upon us, we will likely see a slight uptick in fatalities, as the traffic patterns across America are still new and unrecognized by many drivers that have been sheltering in place for the past several weeks.”

What are the deadliest holidays for American drivers and why?
“The deadliest holiday for American drivers is Christmas due to a variety of factors. The number one factor for high fatalities on the road during the Christmas holiday season is excessive drinking and driving.

The U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism claims that 40 percent of fatalities between Christmas and New Year’s are due to alcohol-impaired incidents. The Christmas season is especially dangerous due to icy road conditions, low visibility, and the increase of stress and pressure on drivers for meeting a vast array of holiday obligations.”

What roadways see a particular increase in traffic incidents and fatalities during holidays? Why?
“Interstate 95, which runs from Florida to Maine, seems to have a particular increase in traffic incidents and related fatalities during the holidays. It is likely that many of these fatalities are related to drivers who embark on long commutes to visit relatives during the holiday season and are not used to the fatigue and stress that comes with making this long-distance journey.

What are some safety tips you have for driving safely during a holiday?
“The most important tip for driving during the holiday season is to stay extra vigilant and to plan ahead. It is imperative that drivers take extra precautions to drive defensively during the holiday season, specifically by not driving under the influence of alcohol and making extra efforts to stay fresh and alert.”

Why are holidays especially risky for drivers and passengers?
“The holiday season is an incredibly risky time for drivers and passengers as many lives are lost every year due to drunk drivers. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, alcohol-impaired fatalities comprise more than 25 percent of all crash fatalities during the holidays.”

What have you seen local, state, or the federal government, or NGOs, do to combat the deadliness of American roadways during holidays?
“Many state and local governments attempt to diminish the number of fatalities during the holiday season by setting up sobriety checkpoints. Sobriety checkpoints or DUI checkpoints are predetermined locations set up by law enforcement officers to randomly check for signs of driver intoxication.”

David Reischer, Esq. is the founder and CEO of LegalAdvice.com.
David is a licensed accident attorney with over 15 years of legal experience.

What are some safety tips you have for driving safely during a holiday?
“It’s true, driving during the holidays can be risky. Fortunately, you can take a few steps to reduce your risk of getting into an accident.

Avoid driving at the riskiest times of day. According to traffic accidents-tracking organizations, between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. is the time of day that most accidents occur. However, on holidays and weekends, intoxicated driving poses a whole new threat. Most alcohol-related accidents occur between midnight and 3 a.m.

Furthermore, be sure that you are well rested for your journey. It’s no secret that the less sleep one gets before they get behind the wheel, the more likely they are to get into an accident.

By avoiding the roads during those two time frames, and resting well before you drive, you can cut your risk of getting into an accident.”

Why are holidays especially risky for drivers and passengers?
“Let’s face it, people like to have fun on the holidays. This means long nights, parties, and often a few too many drinks. Unfortunately, people, especially younger, inexperienced drivers, may not take others into consideration as much as they ought to.

Not only are drivers more likely to be intoxicated during the holidays, people generally get less sleep. It’s hard to sleep when you are on holiday and there are so many activities to take part in.

Unfortunately, however, a lack of rest may increase the risks of an individual getting into an accident.”

What have you seen local, state, or the federal government, or NGOs, do to combat the deadliness of American roadways during holidays?
“Anytime the holidays come near, there is certainly an increased presence of police. No matter where I have lived, one thing stands out. There are way more police on duty during the holidays.

The increased police presence inevitably leads to more vehicles being pulled over on the side of the road. Which sends a clear message. Drive safe, or you may be the next driver on the side of the road interacting with the police.”

Douglas Dedrick is the founder and lead researcher of HealingLaw.com.
Healing Law is an organization dedicated to making law accessible for all.

Celebrate Responsibly after COVID-19 Reopenings

The COVID-19 crisis is affecting us all and wreaking havoc on the world. In the United States alone, more people have already died due to the coronavirus than died serving in the Vietnam War.

The coronavirus, sadly, also affects the way we celebrate holidays and other milestones, such as graduations or retirements. So how do you celebrate responsibly during this public health crisis?

It’s a great question, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is a great resource for all things COVID-19-related. The CDC recommends postponing or canceling mass gatherings especially and limiting the number of smaller gatherings, if they are absolutely necessary, to no more than 10 people. In all situations, people should maintain a distance of at least six feet.

Many folks are taking celebrations online through video conferencing services such as Zoom. As you can see in the video below, the cast of “The Office” even reunited via Zoom to help one couple celebrate their wedding during the coronavirus global health crisis.

So it’s true: Most of us don’t have the cast of one of the most beloved sitcoms of all time on hand to help us celebrate a wedding, birthday, or graduation. But we can all take measures to celebrate more safely from a distance to protect ourselves and our loved ones during this trying time.

Complete Rankings: Worst and Best Holidays

We know it’s helpful to see the holidays ranked by average traffic fatalities all in one easy-to-read spot.

In the table below, we’re offering some statistics on the current status holidays for driving danger and safety in the United States, including the total number of fatal crashes on that holiday from 2016 to 2018 and the average number of annual deadly wrecks on that holiday during the same time period.

Three Year Study Results: U.S. Roadway Fatal Accidents on Holidays
Independence Day1,349449.671
Memorial Day1,3444482
Labor Day1,330443.333
Columbus Day1,3264424
Father's Day1,318439.335
Mother's Day1,2524486
Veterans Day1,1763929
Cinco de Mayo1,16138710
President's Day1,10136712
New Year's Eve1,072357.3313
Ash Wednesday1,043347.6714
St. Patrick's Day1,043347.6715
New Year's Day1,033344.3316
Martin Luther King Jr's Birthday1,03234417

Previous Study Results

  • 2018 Deadliest & Safest Holidays
  • 2017 Deadliest & Safest Holidays
  • 2016 Deadliest & Safest Holidays

Frequently Asked Questions

Now that we’ve covered the 10 deadliest holidays to drive and the five safest holidays to drive, let’s get to your questions. These are the most frequently asked questions about the deadliest holidays for drivers.

#1 – When is the most dangerous time to drive?

Although there are more accidents during rush hour than any other time period, this is likely because there so many people on the road. However, once the number of drivers is factored in, the most dangerous time to drive is late at night.

Studies have shown that around 50 percent of all fatal crashes happen at night. There are more drunk drivers and tired drivers at night. When combined with the low visibility conditions, this creates an environment ripe for accidents, which the data supports.

#2 – Is Halloween the most dangerous holiday?

Halloween is ranked as the seventh deadliest holiday to drive, with an average of 44 fewer fatal crashes than the leader — Independence Day. In our study two years ago, however, Halloween was ranked second.

This drop is due, in large part, to local municipalities creating initiatives to curb Halloween drunk driving. Halloween has the potential to be the most dangerous holiday to drive because of the circumstances, including the number of children going trick-or-treating on the holiday.

#3 – What is the most dangerous holiday to drive?

In our study, the deadliest holiday to drive is Independence Day, though just by a hair over Memorial Day. The issue on Independence Day is the partying and drinking that goes on throughout the day. When nightfall hits and parties start to end, those same people drinking often get behind the wheel and drive home.

As it is often nightfall, this creates an environment where people are inebriated, with their reflexes already slowed, then drive in conditions where it is tough to see. This leads to a high number of DUI fatal crashes on Independence Day for each of the last three years.

#4 – Why is Thanksgiving one of the most dangerous holidays?

Thanksgiving often gets a bad rap as the one of the most dangerous holidays to drive. The reason, of course, is that it is the single largest-trafficked holiday out of all America holidays. People driving all over the country can create traffic jams on highways and the difficult circumstances of driving across entire states.

However, in our study, Thanksgiving ranked as the eighth most dangerous holiday to drive, 44 average crashes below Independence Day. It still ranks as the most dangerous holiday during the holiday season, easily more dangerous than New Year’s or Christmas.

Methodology: Determining the Deadliest Holidays for Drivers

The thorough research process for this comprehensive study included an analysis of over 15,000 data points concerning holiday traffic from 2016–2018 for all 50 U.S. states plus the District of Columbia. We collated these data points from a variety of government, nonprofit, academic, and industry sources.

This is our fourth year of analysis on the topic of holiday roadway fatalities, and each year we’ve built on the data we’re able to provide over the previous year’s study. For this year’s study it was important to include analysis of holiday traffic under the coronavirus pandemic. To that end, we relied on comprehensive data from Google’s COVID-19 Community Mobility Report.

For this year’s study on the deadliest holidays for driving, we relied primarily on data from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), and National Highway Traffic Safety Administrations (NHTSA). This is the most recent data available. 


  1. https://www.mass.gov/
  2. https://www.trafficsafetymarketing.gov/
  3. https://www.cdc.gov/


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