Most Dangerous Roads For Holiday Season Travel

Most Dangerous Roads For Holiday Season Travel

With Thanksgiving fast approaching and Christmas just on the horizon, holiday travel planning is in full swing across the country. However, as one of the busiest times to drive, it is also one of the most dangerous. There were 3,399 traffic fatalities that occurred on Thanksgiving and Christmas from 2015 to 2018, as reported by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). ValuePenguin collated data from more than 2,700 fatal car accidents to find which roads are the deadliest for holiday travelers.

Key findings:

  • The five deadliest roads for Thanksgiving and Christmas travel — I-10, I-95, I-80, I-35 and I-20 — accounted for 151 deaths from 2015 to 2018.
  • These roadways account for 15% of the holiday travel deaths on the entire National Highway System despite making up only 6% of total mileage.
  • Traffic volume along these highways likely has a big impact on the high number of deaths. As the I-10, the most dangerous road, traverses the third highest population among interstates.
  • Roughly one in every three fatal holiday-season traffic accidents involved a drunken driver.

The Five Deadliest Roads for Holiday Travel

I-10 (California to Florida)

Major metropolitan areas along route: Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Antonio, Houston, New Orleans and Jacksonville, Fla.

The road with the most holiday traffic fatalities from 2015 to 2018 is Interstate 10, with 49 such deaths resulting from crashes during the holiday season in these years. For Thanksgiving, the sections of this road that fall within El Paso County, Texas, and East Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana, had the greatest number of deaths during this time period. Nearly one-quarter of the Thanksgiving traffic fatalities on I-10 occurred in these two jurisdictions.

Most dangerous sections for Thanksgiving driving

County
Thanksgiving traffic fatalities (2015 to 2018)
El Paso County, Texas3
East Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana3
Duval County, Florida2
Calcasieu Parish, Louisiana2
Harris County, Texas1
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Most dangerous areas for Christmas travel

County
Christmas traffic fatalities (2015 to 2018)
Guadalupe County, Texas3
Pinal County, Arizona3
Baker County, Florida3
Harris County, Texas2
Jefferson Parish, Louisiana2
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I-95 (Florida to Maine)

Major metropolitan areas along route: Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington and Miami

This major thoroughfare along the Eastern Seaboard is a popular route for holiday travelers; however, it is also one of the most dangerous to travel this holiday season. Those looking to drive on I-95 this Christmas should take particular care in Bronx County, New York. This section of I-95 accounted for the most traffic fatalities on Christmas of any county that contains this roadway from 2015 to 2018.

Most dangerous areas for Thanksgiving travel

County
Thanksgiving traffic fatalities (2015 to 2018)
Broward County, Florida2
Palm Beach County, Florida1
Prince George's County, Maryland1
Northampton County, North Carolina1
Hanover County, Virginia1
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Most dangerous areas for Christmas travel

County
Christmas traffic fatalities (2015 to 2018)
Bronx County, New York3
Palm Beach County, Florida2
Brevard County, Florida2
Prince George's County, Maryland1
Miami-Dade County, Florida1
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I-80 (California to New Jersey)

Major metropolitan areas along route: San Francisco, Salt Lake City, Chicago, Cleveland and New York

I-80 is more than twice as dangerous for Thanksgiving drivers than it is for people traveling during Christmas time. There were 16 total traffic fatalities on Thanksgiving, compared to seven on Christmas. Additionally, though by total distance it only makes up 7% of the total length of the roadway, the section of I-80 that falls in California accounted for 42% of the holiday traffic fatalities during the time period we considered for this study.

Most dangerous areas for Thanksgiving travel

County
Thanksgiving traffic fatalities (2015 to 2018)
Contra Costa County, California4
Tooele County, Utah3
Alameda County, California2
Sacramento County, California2
Elkhart County, Indiana2
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Most dangerous areas for Christmas travel

County
Christmas traffic fatalities (2015 to 2018)
Alameda County, California1
Lake County, Indiana1
Solano County, California1
Keith County, Nebraska1
Grundy County, Illinois1
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I-35 (Texas to Minnesota)

Major metropolitan areas along route: Minneapolis, Oklahoma City, Dallas, Austin, Texas, and San Antonio

With the same number of holiday-season fatalities from 2015 to 2018, I-35 ties with I-80 to rank as the third-most dangerous interstate in the U.S. for Thanksgiving and Christmas driving. However, this danger is almost entirely consolidated to the southern half of this road, as a majority of the holiday travel fatalities occur in Texas. Furthermore, during the time period we considered, there were no reported traffic fatalities in Iowa or Minnesota along I-35 (according to the NHTSA) despite making up 30% of the total length of I-35.

Most dangerous areas for Thanksgiving travel

County
Thanksgiving traffic fatalities (2015 to 2018)
Travis County, Texas3
Dallas County, Texas2
Tarrant County, Texas2
Butler County, Kansas2
Bexar County, Texas1
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Most dangerous areas for Christmas travel

County
Christmas traffic fatalities (2015 to 2018)
Bexar County, Texas2
Denton County, Texas2
Travis County, Texas1
Dallas County, Texas1
Tarrant County, Texas1
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I-20 (Texas to South Carolina)

Major metropolitan areas along route: Dallas, Jackson, Miss., Birmingham, Ala. and Atlanta

I-20, which services much of the Southeast and connects Dallas and Atlanta, accounted for the fifth-most holiday traffic fatalities out of the entire interstate highway system. Taylor County in Texas, whose largest city is Abilene, has proven to be particularly dangerous for Thanksgiving driving. This city alone accounted for more than one-third of the Thanksgiving traffic fatalities on I-20.

Most dangerous areas for Thanksgiving travel

County
Thanksgiving traffic fatalities (2015 to 2018)
Taylor County, Texas5
Dallas County, Texas2
Kaufman County, Texas1
Tarrant County, Texas1
Midland County, Texas1
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Most dangerous areas for Christmas travel

County
Christmas traffic fatalities (2015 to 2018)
Dallas County, Texas1
Kaufman County, Texas1
DeKalb County, Georgia1
Eastland County, Texas1
Haralson County, Georgia1
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National trends for holiday travel: Drunk driving is involved in almost one-third of accidents

Drinking and driving plays a large role in making the roads unsafe during the holiday season. In a previous study, we found that Thanksgiving and Christmas were among the deadliest holidays for drunken driving.

According to our research nearly one-third of fatal holiday-season traffic accidents involved at least one drunken driver.

According to our study, urban areas are more dangerous for holiday driving than rural areas. From 2015 to 2018, 55% percent of these traffic fatalities took place in areas that were classified as urban, while 45% took place in rural areas. Additionally, as much as 23% of fatal holiday-season accidents involved pedestrians.

Holiday travel safety tips

Holiday-season driving can be dangerous; however, for many it is the only option for travel this November and December. If you can't stay off the roads, you can still make sure you and your vehicle are prepared. Additionally, check that you have adequate car insurance coverage, which can protect you and your car if you get into an accident.

Driving carefully can go a long way in preventing accidents this holiday season, as human error accounts for more than 90% of motor vehicle crashes per NHTSA reports.

This means you should drive at the speed limit, avoid using your phone and don't drink alcohol before driving. In addition to preventing serious injuries or death, avoiding accidents can also save you on potential car insurance premium hikes that follows an at-fault accident.

Having adequate car insurance coverage can help protect you from having to pay out of pocket for damage you cause or repairs to your vehicle. Your car insurance policy should ideally include liability coverage above the state-required minimum limits as well as comprehensive and collision coverage. These types of coverage pay to repair or replace your vehicle if your car is damaged in an accident, storm or act of vandalism.

Complete list of dangerous roads

Road
Number of traffic fatalities (2015–2018)
I-1047
I-9533
I-8024
I-3524
I-2023
I-522
I-4021
US-120
US-3014
US-1714
I-8514
I-7514
Show All Rows
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Methodology

We gathered data on traffic fatalities from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) on fatal accidents from 2015 to 2018. Accidents that occurred during the NHTSA-designated holiday periods for Thanksgiving and Christmas were considered. In determining the most dangerous road, we only considered U.S. highways and interstates that were part of the National Highway System.

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 of the insurance industry and driver behaviors 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.