10 Deadliest Holidays to Drive (2021 Report)

Holidays are some of the most exciting days of the year, but they can make the roads more dangerous. Here are the days that you need to be most careful when driving.

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Chris Tepedino is a feature writer that has written extensively about auto insurance for numerous websites. He has a college degree in communication from the University of Tennessee and has experience reporting, researching investigative pieces, and crafting detailed, data-driven features. His works have been featured on CB Blog Nation, Flow Words, Healing Law, WIBW Kansas, and Cinncinati.com. ...

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Written by Chris Tepedino
Feature Writer Chris Tepedino

Dan Walker graduated with a BS in Administrative Management in 2005 and has been working in his family’s insurance agency, FCI Agency, for 15 years (BBB A+). He is licensed as an agent to write property and casualty insurance, including home, auto, umbrella, and dwelling fire insurance. He’s also been featured on sites like Reviews.com and Safeco. He reviews content, ensuring that ex...

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Reviewed by Daniel Walker
Licensed Auto Insurance Agent Daniel Walker

UPDATED: Jun 16, 2022

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Things to Remember

  • The deadliest holidays for driving are usually summer holidays that people celebrate by drinking at parties or traveling long distances
  • Although many winter holidays are traditionally celebrated with parties, they tend to be safer for drivers
  • You can keep yourself safe while driving during a holiday by following traffic laws, avoiding drunk driving, taking your time, and planning your route

Americans love holidays, especially ones that get them out of work for a day. People usually find a fun way to celebrate a holiday, whether that’s family get-togethers, parties with friends, or short trips away from home.

Anyone who drives during a holiday knows that traffic is the worst during these times. From congested roads to drunk drivers, holidays can be some of the most dangerous days to drive. While you want to be careful if you live in one of the worst states for traffic-related fatalities, everyone should take extra caution to make sure they get home safe during the holidays.

Read on to learn which holidays are the most dangerous days for driving, then explore ways to keep yourself safe.

What are the 10 deadliest holidays for drivers?

American holidays have a lot of variety. From religious observations to celebrations of culture or historical moments, it seems there’s a holiday every few weeks. While everyone loves a three-day weekend, holidays can also bring out the worst driving behaviors.

The most common causes of holiday crashes are congested roads, stressed drivers engaging in road rage and reckless driving, and more people getting behind the wheel while intoxicated.

With over 38,000 traffic fatalities in the U.S. in 2020, all holidays have the potential to turn deadly. Here are the top 10 deadliest holidays for driving in America.

Deadliest Holidays to Drive Number 10: Easter

Date: First Sunday after the first full moon of spring

Average fatal crashes: 382

Easter is a Christian holiday meant to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. While the holiday is an important religious tradition, it’s become a meaningful celebration for non-Christian Americans.

U.S. Easter celebrations include an egg hunt, a visit from the Easter bunny, and a family dinner. Unfortunately, not all Easters end on a happy note — drivers are 3.1% more likely to get into a fatal accident than on other holidays.

In a trend you’ll see repeatedly, the main culprits behind the increase in fatalities are driving under the influence, excessive speeding, and reckless behavior.

Deadliest Holidays to Drive Number 9: Veterans Day

Date: November 11

Average fatal crashes: 390

Veterans Day celebrates the nation’s retired military personnel. This holiday matches up with similar celebrations like Armistice Day and Remembrance Day, which are held on the anniversary of the end of WWI.

Traditional Veterans Day celebrations include get-togethers with families or friends, spending time with a vet, and attending parades. With the holiday season right around the corner, Veterans Day can be one last time to relax.

This holiday has a high number of fatal crashes because of heavier traffic and DUIs. Many people out to enjoy a three-day weekend end up driving while intoxicated, which makes a tragedy of what should be a celebration of the nation’s heroes.

Deadliest Holidays to Drive Number 8: Thanksgiving

Date: Fourth Thursday of November

Average fatal crashes: 391

The origin story of Thanksgiving celebrates the first joining of Native Americans and pilgrims during America’s early history. People usually take two days off plus the weekend, making it one of the longest holiday weekends.

As with all holidays, drinking and driving play their part in Turkey Day fatalities. However, Thanksgiving traffic is some of the heaviest of the year, with highways and surface streets sometimes at their busiest. Heavy traffic coupled with the stress of trying to get somewhere on time can make drivers rude and impatient.

On top of that, the famous shopping “holiday” Black Friday usually starts Thanksgiving night, adding even more stressed-out drivers to the already congested streets.

Deadliest Holidays to Drive Number 7: Halloween

Date: October 31

Average fatal crashes: 396

Originally a Celtic holiday celebrating the end of the harvest and later adapted into a festival to ward off fairies and witches, Halloween today is a beloved tradition in America for kids and adults alike.

Unfortunately, Halloween is also particularly dangerous due to the increase in traffic fatalities. Halloween is a party holiday for many young adults, leading to more drunk drivers. Couple that with kids in dark costumes wandering the streets, and you have a recipe for disaster.

While adults should avoid driving if they’ve been drinking, parents and guardians can help keep their children safe by adding reflective tape to their costumes or candy buckets.

The day of the week that Halloween falls on has an effect on how safe the roads are. The deadliest days for Halloween are Friday and Tuesday.

Deadliest Holidays to Drive Number 6: Mother’s Day

Date: Second Sunday in May

Average fatal crashes: 402

As you might guess, Mother’s Day is all about moms. Traditional celebrations include giving a small present and card to your mom, but you don’t have to miss out if you can’t or won’t celebrate with your biological mother. Instead, you can celebrate Mother’s Day with anyone who has supported you.

Mother’s Day might seem like a harmless holiday, but traffic fatalities paint a different picture. Many fatalities are caused by drunk drivers leaving a family celebration, and hit-and-runs are particularly high.

Another critical aspect of the deadliness of Mother’s Day is road conditions. Mother’s Day falls in late spring after winter has damaged roads with snow and sleet but before they can be fully repaired. As a result, hazardous road conditions are a leading cause of fatalities.

Deadliest Holidays to Drive Number 5: Cinco de Mayo

Date: May 5

Average fatal crashes: 419

Mistakenly called Mexican Independence Day — which falls on September 16 — Cinco de Mayo is a celebration of a Mexican victory during the Franco-Mexican war.

Cinco de Mayo is a minor holiday in Mexico, but Americans use it to celebrate Mexican culture. No matter what day Cinco de Mayo falls on, it’s usually celebrated with Mexican food, parties, and drinking.

Driving under the influence is the principal reason for traffic fatalities on Cinco de Mayo, especially when it falls on a workday. However, Cinco de Mayo has not historically been as high on this list. It remains to be seen if Cinco de Mayo will continue to be so deadly.

Deadliest Holidays to Drive Number 4: Father’s Day

Date: Third Sunday in June

Average fatal crashes: 431

Like Mother’s Day, you can celebrate a biological or adopted dad or anyone that’s been there for you regardless of your actual relationship.

Father’s Day is a little deadlier than Mother’s Day, though no one is quite sure why. The best guess is that summer is in full swing by the end of June, and people are a bit more ready to cut loose and have a good time.

Drinking and driving mixed with increased traffic leads to higher fatality rates.

Deadliest Holidays to Drive Number 3: Independence Day

Date: July 4

Average fatal crashes: 440

Another summer holiday, Independence Day, is when Americans celebrate the passage of the Declaration of Independence. The Fourth of July is right around the middle of summer break for many students, so it’s a fun time to celebrate with friends and family.

Traditional Independence Day celebrations include cookouts, backyard games, and fireworks.

Unfortunately, Independence Day has 19% more traffic fatalities than the average holiday — due, again, to drunk driving and increased traffic. What’s more, 52% of all traffic deaths occurred because someone involved wasn’t wearing a seat belt.

Additionally, fatigue plays a serious role in Independence Day deaths. Many Americans use the time off for this holiday to take the family on a short trip, and the long drives lead to tired drivers, which lead to deadly mistakes.

Deadliest Holidays to Drive Number 2: Labor Day

Date: First Monday in September

Average fatal crashes: 445

Labor Day is meant as a day to celebrate America’s workers. For those who have it off, Labor Day is an excellent time to relax and say goodbye to summer.

Although this holiday is unique for celebrating the American worker, the reasons it’s so deadly are not. Many Americans use Labor Day as the last chance to get out of town for a summer trip, which leads to more traffic and fatigued drivers.

Those who choose to stay in town often attend get-togethers that involve drinking. About 38% of all traffic fatalities on Labor Day include drinking and driving.

Deadliest Holidays to Drive Number 1: Memorial Day

Date: Last Monday in May

Average fatal crashes: 448

Not to be confused with Veterans Day, Memorial Day honors the men and women who sacrificed their lives while serving their country.

Memorial Day is a perfect storm for traffic fatalities. Kids are either out of school or have just a few days left, summer is starting, the weather is warmer, and people get a three-day weekend.

As you can probably guess, drunk driving and increased traffic play a huge part in the tragic numbers. However, there’s also a spike in aggressive driving behaviors and running red lights, which increase deaths as well.

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What are the safest holidays to drive?

When you think of dangerous holidays to drive on, you might have guessed traditional party holidays like New Year’s Eve or St. Patrick’s Day. As it turns out, these are some of the safest holidays to drive:

  • New Year’s Day (January 1)
  • New Year’s Eve (December 31)
  • Martin Luther King’s Birthday (observed third Monday of January)
  • St. Patrick’s Day (March 17)
  • President’s Day (third Monday in February)
  • Christmas (December 25)

Part of the reason these holidays are safer to drive is the weather. These winter holidays mean road conditions are likely poor, meaning drivers know to be more careful.

However, the main reason holidays like New Year’s, Christmas, and St. Patrick’s Day are safer is due to stringent efforts by law enforcement. Many drivers who would typically drive under the influence choose not to because they know they are more likely to get caught.

How can you drive safely during the holidays?

Most people plan on driving for at least one holiday — after all, who wants to sit at home and miss everything? If you plan to be on the road for a holiday, use these tips to keep yourself safe:

  • Plan for the weather. A key component of safe driving is knowing what conditions will be like. Make sure you plan for local conditions wherever (and whenever) you’re going.
  • Designate a driver. No one should ever drive drunk. If you plan on drinking, make sure you know how you’re getting home safely.
  • Drive cautiously. Make sure you follow traffic laws, wear your seat belt, avoid distractions, and try not to encourage aggressive behavior toward yourself.
  • Check your car. Before going on any long road trips, check your car’s fluids and tires to make sure everything is in working order. If you need a repair, try to get it done before leaving.
  • Have the right insurance. While state minimum insurance is cheaper, having collision coverage and personal injury protection will help repair or replace your car and pay your medical bills if something happens.
  • Give yourself extra time. Many holidays turn deadly because people rush under the stress of getting to where they need to be on time. You can avoid that by leaving early.

Following these tips can help keep you safe, but not all accidents can be avoided. You can avoid paying for repairs from your own pocket by having the right car insurance policy in place before you leave.

Keep Your Car Safe With the Right Insurance

Holidays are supposed to be a time of fun and celebration with family and friends. Unfortunately, a day off work turns into a day of tragedy for many Americans. You can protect yourself by driving cautiously, planning your trip, and never driving under the influence.

If you don’t already have it, you can find car insurance that will cover you for all situations on the road. Make sure to compare multiple companies to find the best rates possible.

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