The National Safety Council (NSC) projects that 518 people will lose their lives in motor vehicle collisions this Thanksgiving holiday period — proving Thanksgiving 2022 to be the deadliest since 2007.
This year, the Thanksgiving holiday period runs from Wednesday, Nov. 23, through Sunday, Nov. 27.
In fact, history indicates that Thanksgiving is the worst of all holidays to be driving on the nation’s highways and byways — with a staggering 2,414 fatalities over the past five years, according to a new report from Zutobi. Other holidays ranking among the top five for crash fatalities over the same time period include July 4, which ranks second with 2,263 deaths, Labor Day (2,255), Memorial Day (2,161), and Christmas (1,639).
But Thanksgiving, unfortunately, remains first. According to the Zutobi report, in 2020, an estimated 515 people were killed in crashes during Thanksgiving weekend, an increase of 21% compared to the 424 fatalities in 2019.
As to why Thanksgiving is the worst holiday for crashes, experts have put it on the table: The primary causes of Thanksgiving holiday crashes are impaired driving, speeding, volume of traffic, and distracted driving.
Celebrations commonly involve alcohol consumption, making it more of a temptation to drive under the influence. Alcohol is the main cause of car crashes during Thanksgiving, with 185 drivers killed in DUI crashes in 2020. In fact, 36% of the Thanksgiving fatalities involved an alcohol-impaired driver, according to Zutobi.
Noteworthy, nearly the same percentage of roadway deaths — 28% — resulted from high-speed driving. For every 10 mph of increased speed, the risk of dying in a crash doubles. In practical terms, increasing driving speed from 60 mph to 80 mph increases the risk of a fatal crash by four times.
Then there is the sheer volume of traffic that drivers must contend with. This year, an estimated 49 million people will travel to family feasts via car, reports AAA. For decades, data has shown that driving is the least safe method of transportation. Unlike traveling by plane or train, driving far distances around the holidays when roads are more congested increases the chance for a serious accident.
Finally, distracted driving is a constant danger on the nation’s roadways, responsible for killing some 3,142 people in 2020 alone. The Thanksgiving weekend is no exception. Studies indicate that American drivers can’t seem to keep their hands off their phones and on the wheel.
While the roads are likely to be challenging this Thanksgiving period, one basic safety precaution every motor vehicle traveler can take is to wear a seatbelt. Buckling up in the front seat could reduce the risk of fatal injury by 45% and moderate to critical injury by 50%, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.