Broderick Law Firm, LLC

The Winter Holidays Are a Dangerous Time to Be Driving


When you think about high-risk traffic days, holidays like the 4th of July and Memorial Day weekend probably spring to mind. Summer holidays with long weekends often mean parties, barbecues, and a lot of alcohol. And, it’s true that the 4th of July, Memorial Day, and Labor Day weekends are all associated with higher-than-average traffic deaths.

But, you may be surprised to learn that the two most dangerous holiday seasons on U.S. roads are Thanksgiving and Christmas. The National Safety Council (NSC) estimated that there were about 515 traffic deaths in the United States during the Thanksgiving holiday in 2021. The only holiday block that is typically more deadly is the several days encompassing Christmas and New Year’s Day.

The most recent data available says more than 1,000 people lost their lives in traffic during that time. Those numbers may be even higher this year, as traffic fatalities overall have been climbing over the past few years.

Why Are the Winter Holidays More Dangerous?

Though we may associate these holidays more with family gatherings, there are a few reasons that the winter holidays typically have a high traffic death toll. One of those reasons is simply the number of days involved. Memorial Day and Labor Day are long weekends, typically meaning three days. Depending on when the 4th of July falls, it may simply be a weekend or may be a holiday celebrated midweek with a regular weekend before and after.

However, the Thanksgiving holiday often involves multiple days. Many people knock off work early on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and do not return until the following Monday. This allows more time for both travel and revelry. And, that is even more significant during the Christmas holidays.

All those family gatherings also mean more traffic on the road. AAA estimates that more than 109 million people traveled 50 miles or more during the few days surrounding Christmas in 2021. Some of those people were driving to family celebrations an hour or two or three away and then driving home. Others flew to their ultimate destination but then may have rented a vehicle to drive through unfamiliar areas, perhaps in ice and snow.

In short, there were a lot of people on the road. There were a lot of people attending the celebrations where they may have been drinking. There were a lot of people driving in areas that might be unfamiliar. And, of course, large sections of the country have winter weather potentially making roadways more hazardous during that time. That includes Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

Staying Safe on the Road this Holiday Season

Of course, all of the usual tips for safe driving apply. When you are on the road during high traffic periods, when people are more likely to be under the influence of alcohol, and when people are more likely to be distracted or in an unfamiliar area, it pays to be even more vigilant. For example:

  • Don’t drink and drive. Obviously, you should not be drinking and driving at any time. However, even slight impairment – perhaps even within the legal limit – could make the difference between being able to react in time to avoid a serious accident in heavy traffic in winter. If you’ve been drinking, catch a ride with a sober friend or consider calling an Uber or Lyft.
  • Keep your attention on the road. This can be more difficult when you are traveling with family and friends, but that doesn’t make it any less important. And, with others on the road in the same position, potentially distracted and perhaps even under the influence of alcohol, it is all the more important to be vigilant.
  • Plan your travel for non-peak times. During the holidays, there are certain blocks of time when it seems like everyone is on the road. Avoid joining them if possible. For example, the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving is one of the deadliest nights to be on the road. If you are traveling for Thanksgiving, consider knocking off early and traveling earlier in the day on Wednesday, or leaving early on Thanksgiving morning.

The best outcome is to be safe, regardless of how much advance planning it may take. Better to be inconvenienced by an early morning drive on Thursday or lose a couple of hours’ pay to take off earlier on Wednesday and get on the road than put yourself and your family at risk. But, traffic crashes happen even when you’ve taken every precaution.

If you have been injured in a traffic crash that was someone else’s fault, you may be entitled to compensation. This compensation differs from case to case, but may include reimbursement for your medical bills, compensation for lost income, and even compensation for intangible harms like pain and suffering. The best source of information about what type of compensation may be available to you is an experienced car crash attorney.

Attorney Kevin P. Broderick has helped victims of motor vehicle accidents and other injuries recover fair compensation for decades. To learn more about your rights and options, schedule a free consultation by calling 978-459-3085 or filling out the contact form on this site.

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