'Tis the Season: Holiday-related Driving Deaths By State

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
8216 tis the season holiday related driving deaths by state

In addition to being needlessly stressful, obligatory holiday travel poses an elevated risk of roadway mishaps. Inclement weather, congested highways, and overtaxed drivers traversing long distances is an exceptionally bad formula. We don’t have to spell it out further; you’ve likely seen seasonal roadside tragedies firsthand and been thankful it wasn’t you.

However, depending on where you’re making your holiday pilgrimage this year, the associated risks could be much higher or lower than someone traveling a few states over. Not all regions are created equal, and some parts of the United States appear to be particularly susceptible to road fatalities during annual festivities.

Avvo, a legal services outlet that conducts periodic safety-related research, compiled data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) for the entirety of 2016. Cross referencing it against U.S. Census information showed the Southern United States as the region with the most deaths per capita during major holidays.

Mississippi led all states in fatal crashes, with more than two accidents per 100,000 residents. Alabama, Arkansas, South Carolina, and New Mexico also saw significantly higher rates than the rest of the country. While the data encompasses all major holidays, we already know the south has a problem with snowy weather. Since it doesn’t see much of the white stuff, southern governments don’t bother with the costly infrastructure required to cope with it. It doesn’t make sense to field a large number of salt trucks and plows when it’s more economical for the state to just shut everything down.

Southerners also don’t get a lot of practice driving on ice, which is further complicated by a regional market that doesn’t prioritize winter tires. “In the winter states, we advocate that drivers swap out their tires,” Sheri Herrmann, a communications coordinator with Continental, told CarInsurance.com in 2014. “We don’t sell a lot of snow tires in the South because they just don’t perform well in dry conditions. They’re OK. They’re just not optimal.”

There are also disparities between which state a driver originates from. Motorists from Wyoming were much more likely to be involved in holiday-related fatalities when traveling out-of-state — followed by residents from Washington D.C., Delaware, Mississippi, and Nevada.

However, while the colder season is more treacherous when stretched out as a whole, the winter holidays aren’t actually the most dangerous in terms of life-ending wrecks. People tend to stay put on Thanksgiving or Christmas, motoring cautiously on the days before or afterwards. That creates an opening for heavy-drinking holidays, like July 4th, where people venture home in the same evening. Independence Day the most likely to take a life, followed by Labor Day and Memorial Day.

So what can you do with this information? Other than worry more and use it to settle arguments with friends about which states have the worst drivers, not much. However, we hope you’ll take all of this into consideration when you’re out there (and take extra care if you’re in one of the sketchier states).

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2 of 22 comments
  • JaySeis JaySeis on Dec 25, 2017

    We’re the best in the West despite rain, snow, ice, weed, craft brews, I-5, Millenials, and . . . elk (at least where I drive regularly).

  • JaySeis JaySeis on Dec 25, 2017

    We’re the best in the West despite rain, snow, ice, I-5, craft brews, weed, trains, millennials and ....elk (where I drive regularly)

  • SCE to AUX Toyota the follower, as usual. It will be 5 years before such a vehicle is available.I can't think of anything innovative from them since the Gen 1 Prius. Even their mythical solid state battery remains vaporware.They look like pre-2009 General Motors. They could fall hard.
  • Chris P Bacon I've always liked the looks of the Clubman, especially the original model. But like a few others here, I've had the Countryman as a rental, and for the price point, I couldn't see spending my own money on one. Maybe with a stick it would be a little more fun, but that 3 cylinder engine just couldn't provide the kick I expected.
  • EBFlex Recall number 13 for the 2020 Explorer and the 2020 MKExplorer.
  • CEastwood Every time something like this is mentioned it almost never happens because the auto maker is afraid of it taking sales away from an existing model - the Tacoma in this instance . It's why VW never brought the Scirrocco and Polo stateside fearful of losing Golf sales .
  • Bca65698966 V6 Accord owner here. The VTEC crossover is definitely a thing, especially after I got a performance tune for the car. The loss of VTEC will probably result in a slower vehicle overall for one reason: power under the curve. While the peak horsepower may remain the same, the amount of horsepower and torque up to that peak may be less overall. The beauty of variable cam lift is not only the ability to gain more power at upper rpm’s on the “big cam”, but the ability to gain torque down low on the “small cam”. Low rpm torque gets the vehicle moving and then big horsepower at upper rpm’s gains speed. Having only one cam profile is now introducing a compromise versus the VTEC setup. I guess it’s possible that with direct injection they are able to keep the low rpm torque there (I’ve read that DI helps with low rpm torque) but I’m skeptical it will match a well tuned variable lift setup.