This year, experts expect about 55 million Americans to to take to the roads for Thanksgiving, which means holiday travel will be close to pre-pandemic levels.1 This massive migration will happen even though gas prices are about 12 percent higher this year than last.2
Across the country, there are about four percent more crashes on and around Thanksgiving compared to regular days. If you’re packed tight into the family wagon during the third week of November, take extra care in these ten most dangerous states. Our map chronicling fatal car crash frequency shows Thanksgiving’s deadliest hotspots mostly fall below the Mason-Dixon line.
|Deadliest states for car crashes during the Thanksgiving holiday
||Fatal accidents per day per million residents
These numbers don’t tell the whole story. Seven of these ten states (all but Missouri, Florida, and North Carolina) rank among the ten deadliest on any day of the year.
Mississippi consistently ranks as the deadliest place to drive in the U.S., averaging .56 fatal accidents per million residents on an average day. Not only first in roadway deaths, but Mississippi is also most dangerous on Thanksgiving and New Year’s and third most fatal on Christmas. Its lax safety laws, poorly maintained rural roads,3 and high DUI numbers are all risk factors for fatal crashes.4
To find where conditions grow more treacherous on Turkey Day, we calculated the ten states with the most significant increase in roadway fatalities during the long Thanksgiving weekend.
||Increase in number of fatal accidents during Thanksgiving compared to non-holidays
Stress is one factor that likely contributes to these increased Thanksgiving collisions. Most treasure the love of a shared family meal, yet such settings also fuel conflict that can result in distracted driving. Thanksgiving weekend also commences the holiday shopping season. In addition to the anxiety of family visits, many tense drivers fight their way to crowded Black Friday sales.
Alcohol is a key contributor to auto fatalities and tends to weigh more heavily in holiday accidents. According to FARS reporting, more than one in three fatal Thanksgiving crashes involve an impaired driver.5
Holiday driving distances also influence the crash calculus – the further motorists must travel for a get-together, the greater chance there is for tragedy. The population density of Thanksgiving’s five deadliest driving states is only 37 people per square mile (compared to the national average of 94). This indicates that families in Mississippi, Montana, South Carolina, New Mexico, and Oklahoma may spend more time in the car en route to their turkey dinners. Likewise, average annual driving distances in those states are 20 percent higher than the national norm.6
Some of these same factors endanger motorists at Christmas, though the deadliest states for yuletide drivers are different than the Thanksgiving threats.