Is New Year's Day the Most Dangerous Day to Drive?

By: Cherise Threewitt  | 
traffic jam
It seems like the early hours of New Year's Day would be one of the worst times for traffic accidents but what do the stats say? Insung Jeon/Getty Images

Go out on New Year's Eve (which probably means you'll be coming home on New Year's Day) and you'll probably be implored by friends and family to be careful. Take a cab. Lots of drunk drivers out, obviously. It makes sense that the New Year's holiday would be a busy one for law enforcement and emergency response teams. And it is. But, believe it or not, New Year's Day is not the most treacherous day of the year to be behind the wheel.

Before we go any further, let's just clarify this: None of what we are about to say means that it's a good idea to be reckless on New Year's Eve. It's a safe bet that several of the drivers on the road should not be in a car. Just because there are statistically more car crashes on other days doesn't mean you shouldn't be careful.

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Now, then. According to AutoInsurance.org, which used data from various government sources, the worst holiday for auto accidents in 2021 was Memorial Day, perhaps because it was the first holiday of summer and drivers could be drunk or just frustrated with traffic, heat and summer road construction delays. There were 1,343 fatal accidents on Memorial Day between 2017 and 2019, or an average of 448 per year. The next worst holidays (in order) were Labor Day, Independence Day, Columbus Day, Father's Day and Cinco de Mayo.

So where does New Year's Day lie? AutoInsurance.org put it at No. 6 on their list of safest holidays for auto accidents, averaging 360 accidents per year. "With most people off work — and many staying home with their families or nursing hangovers from celebrations the night before — traffic decreases significantly on New Year’s Day," the website reported. The safest holiday? Why, Christmas, according to AutoInsurance.org.

OK, but what about New Year's Eve, or early New Year's Day? The National Safety Council factored in accidents from 6 p.m. Thursday Dec. 30 through midnight on New Year's Day, 2022 (the period it used to cover the New Year's holiday)and estimated 427 people could die.

So, statistically speaking, there's no real reason to fret about going out on New Year's Eve. And with large gatherings outlawed in many parts of the world because of COVID-19, the numbers out on the roads on New Year's Eve 2021 will be even smaller than usual. Practically speaking, though, the risk of a car crash is higher than a typical day, and it always makes sense to use a little extra caution.

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Originally Published: Jul 28, 2015

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  • Detwiler, Jacqueline. "Most Dangerous Holidays For Drivers." Forbes. Nov. 6, 2008. (May 4, 2015) http://www.forbes.com/2008/11/06/dangerous-driving-holidays-forbeslife-cx_jd_1106travel.html
  • Gareffa, Peter. "Thanksgiving Is One of the Most Dangerous Holidays for Driving." Edmunds. Nov. 26, 2014. (May 4, 2015) http://www.edmunds.com/car-news/thanksgiving-is-one-of-the-most-dangerous-holidays-for-driving.html
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