Ahead of the holiday season, drivers on the country's roads should be wary of the dangers of travel. ValuePenguin analyzed data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) database and found 12,610 fatal crashes around Thanksgiving and Christmas in the U.S. from 2010 to 2019 — the most recently available data.
Researchers tallied the number of fatal crashes dating to 2010 during five-day periods around Thanksgiving and Christmas — the two days before, the day of and the two days after. Sixty-four percent of the fatal crashes during this period took place on or around Christmas, versus 36% on or around Thanksgiving.
ValuePenguin also calculated the number of deaths that involved a drunken or speeding driver during both holidays and found nearly one-third of the fatal crashes during these periods involved one or the other. A drunken driver was involved in 30% of fatal holiday crashes, while a speeding driver was involved in 29%.
- It's more dangerous to drive during Christmas than Thanksgiving. Of the 12,610 fatal crashes around Thanksgiving and Christmas from 2010 to 2019, 64% occurred during the Christmas holiday.
- Fatal crashes involving drunken or speeding drivers were as common during Christmastime as during Thanksgiving. Only a single percentage point separated the portion of crashes during Thanksgiving and Christmas where drivers were drunk or speeding.
- Fatal crashes involving drunken drivers during the holidays were most common in Connecticut. 43% of fatal crashes around Thanksgiving and Christmas in Connecticut involved a driver with a blood alcohol content of at least 0.08%. Following Connecticut were Texas (41%) and Rhode Island (40%), with all three accounting for the only states where 4 in 10 statewide crashes involved drunken drivers.
- Fatal crashes involving speeding drivers during the holidays were most common in Rhode Island. 55% of fatal crashes in the state around Thanksgiving and Christmas involved a speeding vehicle. Behind Rhode Island are five states where speeding was part of 46% of statewide fatal crashes: Kansas, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
More than 6 in 10 fatal crashes during the Thanksgiving or Christmas holiday happened on or around Christmas in the past decade
Christmas is a more likely time for fatal crashes than Thanksgiving, according to data from 2010 to 2019. During this period, there were 12,610 fatal crashes around these two holidays — 4,542 during Thanksgiving and 8,068 during Christmas. That means 64% of the crashes that occurred during this period around the two holidays happened around Christmas.
Many of these fatal crashes involved drivers who were intoxicated or who were operating their vehicles unsafely by speeding. Drivers were legally drunk — their blood alcohol content was at least 0.08% — in 30% of all crashes between the two holidays. There was a speeding driver in 29% of crashes.
Thanksgiving and Christmas had nearly the same percentage of fatal accidents in which speeding or drunken drivers were present. Drunken drivers were present for 29% of the deadly accidents during Thanksgiving, compared with 30% during Christmas. Speeding drivers were a factor in 28% of crashes during Thanksgiving and 29% during Christmas.
Does car insurance cover damage from drunken driving? Auto insurance generally covers damage caused by drunken drivers. The other driver's liability coverage will cover the victim's damage. But auto insurance won’t cover the damage a drunken driver causes to their own car. In fact, the intoxicated driver will likely be dropped by their insurer and could find it hard to get cheap insurance from other providers.
Holiday-time fatal crashes are most likely to involve a drunken driver in Connecticut, while a speeding driver is most likely to be a factor in Rhode Island
Depending on the state, drunken or speeding drivers can be a greater factor during the holidays. While drivers with at least a 0.08% blood alcohol content were involved in 30% of fatal holiday crashes nationwide, they were involved in 43% of the fatal crashes in Connecticut — the most of any state.
Behind Connecticut, intoxicated drivers were involved in at least 4 in 10 fatal crashes in Texas (41%) and Rhode Island (40%). In fact, of all the deadly crashes during Thanksgiving in Rhode Island, 67% involved a drunken driver — by far the most of any state — though there were only 20 fatal crashes during this period on or around holidays. During Christmas, Hawaii (50%) is the state where drunken drivers were most likely to play a part in holiday crashes.
Rhode Island is also a dangerous state for speeding drivers during the holidays. Fifty-five percent of the fatal crashes during the holidays involved a driver going over the speed limit. It was the only state where more than half of the fatal crashes involved a speeding driver, though five states tied for second at 46%: Kansas, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
In Rhode Island, 83% of fatal crashes during Thanksgiving involved a speeding driver, while 67% of those in Wyoming during Christmas had a speeding driver — both nationwide highs for each holiday.
|District of Columbia||36%||36%|
Table displays share of fatal crashes per state during Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday seasons involving a drunken or speeding driver. ValuePenguin analysis of FARS data, 2010 to 2019.
At the other end of the spectrum, deadly crashes during the holidays were least likely to involve a drunken driver in Wyoming (8%) and Utah (9%). These were the only states where less than 10% of fatal crashes involved a drunken driver.
Speeding drivers were least likely to be a factor in fatal crashes in Florida. In the Sunshine State, 11% of the fatal crashes during the holidays involved a speeding driver. Florida is one of five states where the percentage of fatal crashes involving a speeding driver was less than 20%. The other four were New Jersey (14%), Arkansas (16%), Georgia (17%) and Mississippi (18%).
How speeding affects car insurance rates: Speeding can also contribute to higher car insurance rates. While the penalty isn't often as severe as it would be for drivers with a DUI on their records, speeding can still prevent drivers from finding affordable rates easily.
Utah is the only state where it's more dangerous to drive during Thanksgiving than Christmas, though other states experienced more fatal crashes during this period
For most states, Christmas is more dangerous than Thanksgiving for fatal crashes. There are only two states where this isn't the case. In Wyoming, there was an even split in the number of fatal crashes during Thanksgiving and Christmas. In Utah it's more dangerous to drive during Thanksgiving than Christmas, as crashes during Thanksgiving accounted for 52% of all holiday crashes.
Still, Utah's fatal crashes represent just 1% of the total number from all states during the holidays from 2010 to 2019. As the largest states by population, California and Texas contributed the most fatal crashes to the overall number — each state makes up 10% of the national fatal crash total during this decade-long period.
Texas experienced 1,280 fatal holiday accidents in the last decade, while California had 1,273. With Florida, where 1,171 fatal crashes happened during this period on or around holidays, these states were the only ones with more than 1,000 fatal crashes.
Table displays fatal crashes during the holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas. ValuePenguin analysis of FARS data, 2010 to 2019.
ValuePenguin calculated the number of fatal crashes in each state around Thanksgiving and Christmas from 2010 to 2019 — the most recently available data — using the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS).
Each holiday period consists of the two days before and after the holiday, plus the day itself.