Which Holiday Weekends are Most Dangerous for Drivers?

Which Holiday Weekends are Most Dangerous for Drivers?

Every year millions of Americans hit the road for the holidays, especially ones like Thanksgiving and Christmas. Do certain holidays tend to be more dangerous than others though? We took at look at the Fatality Analysis Reporting System to see which holidays had the most fatal car accidents (where at least one person was killed), per year between 2011 and 2015.

How Each Major Holiday Weekend Ranks for Fatal Car Accidents

1. Memorial Day Weekend

  • 312 fatal accidents per year
  • Deadliest City: Houston

2. Labor Day Weekend

  • 308 fatal accidents per year
  • Deadliest City: Los Angeles

3. 4th of July Weekend

  • 307 fatal accidents per year
  • Deadliest City: Houston

4. Easter Weekend

  • 280 fatal accidents per year
  • Deadliest City: Los Angeles

5. Thanksgiving Weekend

  • 258 fatal accidents per year
  • Deadliest City: Los Angeles

6. New Year's

  • 245 fatal accidents per year
  • Deadliest City: Houston

7. Christmas

  • 231 fatal accidents per year
  • Deadliest City: San Antonio

Where Do Fatal Accidents Happen During the Holidays?

map shows the density of fatal accidents for different holidays in the US

The red regions in the maps above represent the spots that get the highest density of fatal accidents. On a normal 3 day period, the stretch between Washington D.C., Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York see the most fatal accidents. When it comes to the holidays however, some cities and states get more accidents than normal. On New Year's and Easter for example, Atlanta and Houston get a fatal accident density similar to the northeast. While Memorial Day and Labor Day Weekends had more fatal accidents per year than 4th of July Weekends, these maps show that the crashes that happened on 4th of July Weekend were more widespread. The far midwest and top of the southwestern United States are either safer drivers on Memorial and Labor Day weekends or don't seem to celebrate it like the rest of the country. On 4th of July however, those regions also experience a higher density of car accidents.

Are Holidays More Dangerous to Drive than Normal Days?

Yes and no. Between 2011 and 2015, the average number of fatal accidents per day was 83.91. Labor Day, Memorial Day and 4th of July weekends, ranked as one of the riskiest times of the year to get into a fatal accident. The day of July 4th is the single most risky day of the year based on this five year data. Thanksgiving can be more dangerous or safer depending on the exact day, with Thanksgiving proper being safer than a normal day. Christmas and New Years are also like this. New Years Day, particularly the early morning hours, are one of the riskiest times of the year. The weekend itself however, including the 31st and 2nd, are generally safer than most normal days.

bar graph of average fatal accidents per holiday weekend

Holidays Increase the Chance of Getting Into a Drunk Driving Accident

Every holiday weekend increases your chances of getting into a drunk driving accident. About 40% of all accidents that have happened on Memorial Day weekend between 2011 and 2015 included a drunk driver. About a 43% increase from a normal 3 day span. Easter, though having less total fatal accidents than Labor Day, actually had a greater percentage of drunk driving fatal accidents.

bar graph of the percent of drunk driving accidents per holiday


To find how dangerous each holiday was, we looked at the FARS (Fatality Analysis Reporting System) of the National Traffic and Highway Safety Administration. We took their "Accident" data from 2011 until 2015 and used it to count the number of accidents that occurred on the holidays we listed above in the U.S. between those years. The holidays we use were actually the associated weekend. For holidays that fall on a Monday, like Memorial and Labor Day, we used the preceding 2 days. Each holiday however was a total of 3 days worth of data for each year between 2011 and 2015.

Bailey is a Research Analyst at ValuePenguin, covering insurance. He graduated from Occidental College with a B.A. in Mathematics and a minor in Computer Science. Bailey's analysis has been featured by CNBC, the Houston Chronicle and the National Transportation Bureau Safety Board.

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.