This Is the Most Dangerous Day of the Year to Drive
This national holiday is also the deadliest day on America's roads.
37,461. That’s how many people died in car accidents last year, per the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The figure is a slight increase over nearly the entire prior decade: 2008 through 2015 saw fewer deaths, around 33,000 annually, while 2007 clocked over 41,000. And while the full spectrum of data for this year isn’t available, 2017 was just as consistently treacherous for drivers as the past decade has been: On average, there are about 100 fatalities per day on U.S. roadways.
Still, there is one day that is far and away more dangerous than the rest: Memorial Day. According to the NHTSA, over the course of a typical three-day Memorial Day weekend, more than 400 people will die in car crashes—or about 130 fatalities per day. The culprit is alcohol-related: More than 40 percent of those fatalities are directly the result of drunk driving.
After all, Memorial Day is the first holiday of the year in which friends and family get together for outdoor parties and barbecues. Plus, according to independent data cobbled together by the American Automobile Association, 36 million Americans drive more than 50 miles that weekend. So it’s something of a perfect storm: Alcohol is rampant and the U.S. roadways are clogged with an influx of millions of motorists.
You may be surprised to hear, however, that, over the traditional holiday season—that festive period spanning Thanksgiving through New Year’s—vehicular fatalities are below average. Thanksgiving weekend sees about 260 fatalities (the data spans Thursday, Black Friday, and that following Saturday) while the three-day New Year’s timespan comes in at 245, and Christmas at 230. This amount to an average of 81 daily deaths over the holidays—less than, you’ll note, the 100 that happen on a regular day. (Curious about which “regular” day is the most dangerous? It’s Saturday. According to the NHTSA, nearly 7,000 accidents occur annual on Saturdays, while Tuesdays, the safest day, see a far lower 4,500.)
Just be careful. Buckle up. Don’t tailgate. Stop texting. And quit that 10-and-2 habit.