NEW JERSEY – With air travel still suppressed in the wake of COVID-19, those making holiday travel plans will likely be traveling by car. While reduced public air travel helps to prevent the spread of the virus, increased road travel raises the risk for accidents and road fatalities, making holidays a particularly dangerous time to travel.
Around Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years, the rate of fatal car accidents increases by over 10 percent. Around other holidays, the frequency of fatal crashes rises even further. Days near summer holidays tend to be the most dangerous, especially around the Fourth of July. This holiday period averages nearly 140 fatal crashes per day, a 54 percent rise above non-holiday rates.
In addition to busier roads, the holiday season is also associated with increased drunk driving. Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration indicates that drunk driving is particularly prevalent during the New Years holiday, as 42 percent of fatal crashes during this holiday period involve a driver over the legal limit. By comparison, 30 percent of fatal crashes during non-holiday periods involve drunk drivers.
To profile the states with the largest increase in fatal vehicle crashes during holiday periods, researchers at CoPilot analyzed data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration over a 15-year period (2004 to 2018). Increases in fatal vehicle crashes during holiday periods were calculated by comparing holiday periods to non-holiday periods. Researchers also highlighted which specific holiday periods were most susceptible to fatal vehicle crashes in each state.
States with the largest increase in fatal vehicle crashes during holiday periods tend to be those with lower population densities that record lower numbers of fatal vehicle crashes on a daily basis. For instance, Alaska, which recorded the largest increase in fatal vehicle crashes during holiday periods, averages less than one fatal vehicle crash per day during non-holiday periods. However, during holiday periods, such crashes increase by 72 percent and account for 8 percent of annual fatal vehicle crashes in Alaska.
The analysis found that in New Jersey, fatal crashes increase by 37.0% during holidays. In fact, 6.6% of all fatal crashes in New Jersey occur during holidays. Out of all U.S. states, New Jersey experiences the 13th largest increase in fatal crashes during holidays. Here is a summary of the data for New Jersey:
- Increase in fatal crashes on holidays: 37.0%
- Most dangerous holiday for road travel: Christmas
- Average fatal crashes per day on holidays: 2.16
- Average fatal crashes per day on non-holidays: 1.57
- Share of all fatal crashes occurring on holidays: 6.6%
For reference, here are the statistics for the entire United States:
- Increase in fatal crashes on holidays: 30.2%
- Most dangerous holiday for road travel: Fourth of July
- Average fatal crashes per day on holidays: 118.49
- Average fatal crashes per day on non-holidays: 91.02
- Share of all fatal crashes occurring on holidays: 6.3%
For more information, a detailed methodology, and complete results, click here.