Thanksgiving is the deadliest day of the year for drivers in the United States, a new study shows.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) data shows fatal car crashes are 272% higher on Thanksgiving Day than the rest of November.
Research compiled by John Fitch, a personal injury lawyer based in Ohio, shows an average of 405 fatal crashes on Thanksgiving each year, nearly three times the daily average throughout the month. Fitch analyzed NHTSA data on fatal car crashes reported on major U.S. holidays to determine which are the deadliest for Americans.
The data showed other major holidays had just a 140% increase in fatal crashes compared to other days in the month those holidays are celebrated.
While it’s not clear what is driving the increase in fatal crashes on Thanksgiving, Fitch suggests it may have something to do with people simply being tired. The National Safety Council says that driving without sleep is just as dangerous as driving with a blood alcohol level of 0.08%, the legal limit in Florida.
Behind Thanksgiving, Memorial Day is the second-deadliest holiday for drivers, with fatalities up 259% compared to the rest of May. Fourth of July is third with an increase of 227%.
Christmas Day is also dangerous, with a 188% increase in fatal crashes compared to the rest of the month (Fitch did not provide data on Christmas Eve).
Conversely, Halloween and New Year’s Eve are among the safest days for motorists, with 9% and 16% fewer fatal crashes than the rest of October and December, respectively. It’s worth noting, however, that fatal crashes are up on New Year’s Day by 19% compared to the rest of January, suggesting more fatal crashes may occur after midnight, when celebrants are returning home from parties.
“With increased traffic comes increased risk — particularly for celebrations that can run quite late, like on New Year’s Day, as people are likely to be tired from the night before and therefore may struggle to concentrate as well as they would do normally,” Fitch said.
“If you plan to travel, you need to be conscious of your condition and consider your safety on the road. Ask yourself, are you okay to be driving? Have you slept enough? Will the alcohol be out of your system? Only when the answer is yes to all of those is it safe to drive.”