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 was Independence Day, because lots of people are on the road, and alcohol is often served at parties people attend. There were 1,349 fatal accidents on Independence Day between 2016 and 2018, or an average of 450 per year. The next worst holidays (in order) were Memorial Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day and Father's Day. Thanksgiving was No.8.

So where does New Year's Day lie? AutoInsurance.org put it at No. 3 on their list of five safest holidays for auto accidents, averaging 344 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. 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. New Year's Eve through midnight on New Year's Day and came up with an average of 304 deaths for 2018. (There were 330 deaths in 2017.) The safest holiday? Why, Christmas, according to AutoInsurance.org.

So, statistically speaking, there's no real reason to fret about going out on New Year's Eve. And with large gatherings outlawed in most parts of the world because of COVID, the numbers out on the roads on New Year's Eve 2020 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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