Driving the Day of the Super Bowl? If Your Team is Playing, It's Probably One of the Safer Days to be on the Road

Data on traffic fatalities indicates that road deaths on Super Bowl Sunday are similar to the preceding and following Sundays for the country as a whole. But if a state has a team participating, fatality rates drop.
Super Bowl LIV

While sports fans are glued to their seats watching (or preparing to watch) the San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs square off in Super Bowl LIV, those looking to get away from football mania may find that Super Bowl Sunday could be a relatively safe day to drive, depending on where they live.

Compared to the Sundays before and after the Super Bowl, the rate of road fatalities is fairly flat across the country during its most watched sports event. However, these numbers change if you focus only on the locations that have a Super Bowl participant: States that have a team in the Super Bowl see car fatality rates drop 14% (if the state is home to the losing team) and 37% (if the state is home to the winning team).

We've also noted the states that have the biggest fall in traffic fatalities on Super Bowl Sunday. Arizona and Florida saw the biggest decline in fatality rates among qualifying states, while Alabama and Kentucky saw the biggest increases.

Drivers in the states of Super Bowl participants are at an especially low risk of fatal accidents compared to a usual Sunday

With all the activity revolving around a Super Bowl host city, one might expect a higher rate of car accidents in its host state. And with fans of the Super Bowl opponents driving to each others' homes to watch the game, one might expect a higher rate of accidents in the states of the teams' participants, too.

As it turns out, only the first assumption holds up to scrutiny. The host state has a higher rate of fatalities than the national average for a winter Sunday that time of year. For drivers in states of teams involved in the Super Bowl — both winners and losers — the fatality rate is lower than the national average for the surrounding Sundays. This is especially true for the winners, where the fatality rate falls 37% on Super Bowl Sunday.

Home states of the Super Bowl participants have a lower rate of fatalities on Super Bowl Sunday than the rest of hte country

Of the last 16 Super Bowls:

  • Florida has been the most frequent host (four times)
  • Through the success of the New England Patriots (five wins and three losses), Massachusetts has been both the most frequent winning and losing state for Super Bowl participants.

States in which the rate of car accident fatalities declines and increases the most

Though a Super Bowl Sunday has a similar car crash fatality rate to surrounding Sundays, some states saw notable swings in fatalities on the day of the event.

States in which the rate of fatalities declines the most

We found that Arizona and Florida had the lowest fatality rates compared to surrounding Sundays.

Given the small sample of days, we limited our analysis to states with at least 20 driving deaths on Super Bowl Sunday over the last 16 years.

Arizona

The day of the Super Bowl, Arizona averages 30.2 fatalities per million people. That's 36% lower than the preceding or following Sundays, on which it averages 47.5. In the last 16 years, the Arizona Cardinals made one appearance in the event and Arizona has hosted it twice.

Florida

Florida averages 44.3 fatalities per million people the day of the Super Bowl, compared to 52.5 on the preceding and following Sundays, a fall of 16%. This is despite the fact that Florida has hosted four of the last 16 Super Bowls. Florida is hosting again this year.

States in which the rate of fatalities increases the most

Conversely, Alabama and Kentucky had the largest increase in fatality rates compared to preceding and succeeding Sundays. Neither state has an NFL team, so sports fans in the state may be less likely to stay home and watch the game.

Alabama

Alabama averages 62.8 fatalities per million residents on the day of the Super Bowl. On the Sundays before and after the big game, it averages 49.5. That's a difference of 26.8%, making it the state with the largest relative increase.

Kentucky

Kentucky saw the second biggest increase in its car fatality rate. The Sundays saw around the Super Bowl saw 41.5 fatalities per million residents. On Super Bowl Sunday, that jumped 26% to 52.2.

Methodology

ValuePenguin analyzed traffic data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration from 2004-2018 to determine the change in traffic-related fatalities on Super Bowl Sunday by comparing data from Super Bowl Sundays to other Sundays in January and February, and in the Sundays immediately preceding and following the Super Bowl. Fatalities per 1 million people was calculated against each state’s population at the 2010 census.

Mark is a Senior Research Analyst for ValuePenguin focusing on the insurance industry, primarily auto insurance. He previously worked in financial risk management at State Street Corporation.

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