Thanksgiving Car Accident Statistics: Holiday Crashes, Injuries, and Fatalities in Utah

Thanksgiving is a time to eat, drink, and be merry with your friends and loved ones.  For many Utahans, that means long drives to see family members who live in distant parts of the state.  It also means an increased risk of drunk driving accidents as thousands of sleepy, intoxicated drivers return home from parties and family gatherings.  But just how dangerous is it to drive on Thanksgiving, and how do other holidays in Utah compare?  Salt Lake City auto accident lawyer Darwin Overson looks at recent Thanksgiving car crash statistics to find out the answers.

How Many Car Crashes Happen on Thanksgiving?

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Holidays are a time for celebration and relaxation.  Unfortunately, they are also a time for traffic accidents due to increased numbers of drivers on the road, many of whom are drunk from celebrating, sleepy from long-distance driving, or both.  Intoxication and fatigue are both major contributing factors to car accidents, and when the two are combined, it’s an all but guaranteed recipe for disaster.

There’s an ongoing debate over which holiday is the most dangerous for driving.  However, it’s not necessary to guess which holiday has the highest number of car accidents when the answers are plainly evident in statistical records from the Utah Department of Public Safety (DPS).

Here’s how each holiday was ranked by the DPS in 2014, the most recent year for which holiday crash data is available, based on the total number of Utah accidents per holiday:

  1. Easter – 308 total holiday crashes
  2. Mother’s Day – 346
  3. New Year’s – 395
  4. Presidents’ Day – 425
  5. Memorial Day – 470
  6. Labor Day – 471
  7. St. Patrick’s – 494
  8. Fourth of July – 554
  9. Thanksgiving – 574
  10. Pioneer Day – 622
  11. Halloween – 630
  12. Christmas – 889

Which Holiday is the Most Dangerous for Driving in Utah?

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Based on the list above, Thanksgiving seems like the fourth most dangerous holiday for driving in Utah.  However, some holidays last longer than others, which can skew the data to make it seem as though longer holidays are more hazardous.

A more accurate method of evaluating road safety is probably to compare each holiday’s daily crash rate.  As you’ll see by comparing the list below against the list above, measuring by daily rate shuffles the ranking order.

  1. Easter – 102.7
  2. Presidents’ Day – 106.3
  3.  Thanksgiving – 8
  4. Mother’s Day – 115.3
  5. Memorial Day – 117.5
  6. Labor Day – 117.8
  7. St. Patrick’s – 123.5
  8. Pioneer Day – 124.4
  9. New Year’s – 131.7
  10. Fourth of July – 138.5
  11. Halloween – 157.5
  12. Christmas – 177.8

To put those numbers into context, Utah had a daily average crash rate of 151 in 2014, which is actually higher than the crash rate on many of the holidays listed above.  For example, the crash rate on St. Patrick’s Day – a holiday known for drinking and partying – was 123.5, significantly lower than the average daily crash rate of 151.  At 114.8, Thanksgiving had an even lower daily crash rate.

It’s a surprising finding, but the statistics don’t lie: based purely on daily crash rates, Thanksgiving (and most other holidays, excluding Halloween and Christmas) were actually much safer than the average day in 2014.  In fact, Thanksgiving was also safer than most other holidays, ranking tenth out of twelfth ahead of only Presidents’ Day and Easter.

However, there’s also a third way to compare Thanksgiving against other holidays, which is to analyze the per-day fatality rate.  Thanksgiving’s position does not change significantly, though it does move higher up on the list.  Several other holidays shift much more dramatically.  Christmas falls from ranking first to ranking last, but New Year’s and Independence Day jump to the front of the list, likely because both involve heavy drinking to a greater extent than most other holidays.

  1. Christmas – 0.2
  2. Easter – 0.3
  3. Memorial Day – 0.5
  4. Thanksgiving – 0.6
  5. Mother’s Day – 0.7
  6. Labor Day / St. Patrick’s – 0.8
  7. Halloween / Presidents’ Day – 1.0
  8. Pioneer Day – 1.4
  9. New Year’s – 1.7
  10. Fourth of July – 2.5

The daily fatality rate in 2014 was 0.9.  That means Halloween, Presidents’ Day, Pioneer Day, New Year’s, and the Fourth of July were the only holidays with higher death rates than an average day in 2014.  At 0.6, Thanksgiving had a slightly lower-than-average fatality rate, just as it had a lower-than-average crash rate.

The takeaway message is that there are multiple ways to compare holiday accident statistics.  Measuring total crashes yields one result, while measuring by crash rate yields a second, and measuring by fatal crash rate yields a third.  Thanksgiving ranks differently by each of these measures, but generally speaking, tends to be less dangerous than most other holidays, and indeed, most days of the year.  Nonetheless, intoxicated and fatigued driving are major concerns on every day of the year – not just on the holidays.

Salt Lake City Car Accident Attorney Handling Personal Injury Claims

From the law offices of Overson Law, we wish you and your loved ones a safe and happy holiday season.  However, if disaster strikes, know that you can turn to our Utah personal injury law firm for aggressive legal representation.  If you or a family member gets injured on Thanksgiving 2016 due to a collision with a drunk driver, a fatigued driver, or a driver who was simply being careless, we may be able to help you get compensated for your medical bills and other accident-related expenses.

Representing crash victims throughout the state, we handle personal injury claims arising from Utah truck accidents, motorcycle accidents, bus accidents, and more.  We also have decades of experience handling wrongful death claims arising from fatal automotive accidents.  To speak confidentially with an experienced car accident attorney in a completely free legal consultation, call our law offices at (801) 895-3143.


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