Most dangerous days to drive

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The risk of getting into an accident is exponentially higher on holidays than on regular days. Data shows that the week between Christmas and New Years is often the deadliest for drivers, followed by Thanksgiving. Alcohol is one of the main factors in holiday car accidents, but so is speeding, inclement weather and distracted driving.

In addition, drivers are more likely to get into accidents on certain days and at particular times. Most accidents occur on the weekend in the late night and early morning hours. Fortunately, there are ways that drivers can keep themselves and others safe when driving on holidays and at peak accident times.

Holiday driving statistics

Driving on a major holiday comes with added risk. Here are a few holiday accident statistics you should know before you start your travels:

Most dangerous holidays for driving

Data proves that driving on holidays is more dangerous than driving on regular days. In 2019, there were an average of 102 traffic fatalities each day on U.S roads. But on six major holidays, the average number of deaths increased to 119 per day, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Every holiday has a different level of risk based on historical traffic accident data. Here are some of the most dangerous holidays for driving, based on data from the U.S. Department of Transportation:

  1. Christmas to New Years: Historically, the 8.5 to 11.5 days between Christmas and New Years is the deadliest period for drivers in the United States. Specifically, this includes the week between December 24 and January 2. In 2018, there were a total of 1,087 traffic fatalities during this period.
  2. Thanksgiving: Thanksgiving is the second deadliest holiday for drivers. In 2018, 513 Americans were killed in car accidents during the 4.5 days around Thanksgiving. Research also shows that Thanksgiving is one of the busiest days for car travel, making the risk for an accident much higher than on a regular day.
  3. Labor Day: The U.S. Department of Transportation found that 414 people were killed in the 3.5 days around Labor Day in 2018. Data also shows that traffic fatalities on Labor Day accounted for more than 10% of the total traffic fatalities recorded in September of 2018.
  4. Fourth of July: 194 people were killed in traffic accidents around the Fourth of July in 2018, which is also one of the most common days for DUI arrests. The National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) finds that between 2014 and 2018, 812 drivers were killed in accidents involving drunk drivers during the Fourth of July period.

Why are the holidays so deadly?

There are a few reasons why driving on holidays is more deadly than driving on regular days. Arguably, the most significant factor is alcohol consumption. Drivers are much more likely to drive after drinking alcohol on holidays, where alcohol is often present. The NHTSA found that roughly one-third of all traffic fatalities in the United States involve drunk drivers.

Another factor is that many people travel by car around the holidays to visit family and friends, take vacations and attend parties. For decades, data has shown that driving is the least safe method of transportation. Unlike traveling by plane or train, driving far distances around the holidays when roads are more congested increases the chance for a serious accident.

As more people hit the road, the risk of other dangerous driving habits increases, particularly distracted driving. More drivers are texting, eating behind the wheel, driving without adequate sleep and driving with many passengers, all of which can make the risk of an accident more likely. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that, in 2018, more than 2,800 people were killed in an accident involving a distracted driver.

Most dangerous times for driving

The most dangerous day to drive is on Friday between 3 p.m. and 5:59 p.m., based on data from the NHTSA. The agency reports that there were 303,000 total crashes reported on this day and during this time in 2019.

In the table below, we included a breakdown of the number of total crashes on each day of the week, and for every time window:

Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
12 a.m. to 2:59 a.m. 69,000 29,000 24,000 31,000 25,000 33,000 58,000
3 a.m. to 5:59 a.m. 43,000 35,000 30,000 31,000 29,000 34,000 38,000
6 a.m. to 8:59 a.m. 46,000 163,000 180,000 174,000 162,000 146,000 65,000
9 a.m. to 11:59 a.m. 84,000 131,000 139,000 150,000 138,000 143,000 126,000
12 p.m. to 2:59 p.m. 132,000 174,000 180,000 178,000 179,000 217,000 164,000
3 p.m. to 5:59 p.m. 135,000 259,000 278,000 266,000 271,000 303,000 153,000
6 p.m. to 8:59 p.m. 117,000 131,000 136,000 141,000 143,000 178,000 137,000
9 p.m. to 11:59 p.m. 67,000 53,000 62,000 70,000 75,000 97,000 105,000

One of the reasons why car accidents are so common on Friday in the late afternoon and early evening is because there is a high volume of drivers on the road. People are commuting home from work, and many others are traveling to start their weekend plans.

However, the highest number of fatal accidents occurs on Saturday between 9 p.m. and 11:59 p.m. This is also the period when DUI arrests are likely to happen. In the table below, you can see the number of fatal accidents that occur on each day and for each period:

Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
12 a.m. to 2:59 a.m. 940 362 311 330 340 476 802
3 a.m. to 5:59 a.m. 545 327 327 318 348 355 525
6 a.m. to 8:59 a.m. 344 518 507 502 521 545 406
9 a.m. to 11:59 a.m. 401 455 450 471 418 477 466
12 p.m. to 2:59 p.m. 610 630 636 569 591 661 618
3 p.m. to 5:59 p.m. 720 730 731 694 736 843 763
6 p.m. to 8:59 p.m. 831 679 722 724 760 928 980
9 p.m. to 11:59 p.m. 661 614 564 582 698 928 1,005

Weekend car accidents

The chance of getting into a fatal car accident is statistically higher on the weekends, specifically on Saturdays. In 2018, there were 5,794 fatal crashes reported on Saturday across the United States. There were 5,053 crashes on Sunday, slightly less than Friday, which saw 5,169 fatal accidents. Car accidents on the weekends are most likely to occur during the late evening and early morning hours.

Staying safe during holidays

Although driving during the holidays is inherently risky, there are ways you can stay safe. Here are some suggestions:

  • Never drink and drive: Alcohol is more present around the holidays, so if you plan to drink, always make sure you have a designated driver and never get behind the wheel after you have been drinking.
  • Stay off the road during peak travel times: Plan your travels for days and times where the road is less congested. The least busy times are typically the weekdays between Monday and Thursday in the early morning hours.
  • Consider alternative modes of transportation: Flying is a much safer form of travel, and you do not have to worry about other drivers and the potential for accidents. If you are planning a long road trip around the holidays, consider flying or taking the train instead.
  • Make sure you have adequate insurance coverage: If you get into an accident while traveling during the holidays, your car insurance company will probably cover it. However, it is a good idea to check your coverage before you leave and consider raising your policy limits if you are concerned about the increased risk of accidents.
Written by
Elizabeth Rivelli
Insurance Contributor
Elizabeth has two years of experience writing for insurance domains such as Bankrate.com, The Simple Dollar, Coverage.com and NextAdvisor, among others. In addition to auto insurance, Elizabeth regularly writes about home insurance, renters insurance and life insurance. She also covers industry trends and general insurance education.
Edited by
Insurance Editor