What's the Most Dangerous Day to Drive?
40,000 in U.S. Die Each Year on the Road, Weekends Are Deadliest
Imagine a plane full of people crashing, killing everyone on board, every
single day. That's how many people die on America's roads daily, says the
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
"Motor vehicle crashes in the United States result in more than 40,000
deaths per year," says the Institute in the journal Injury
Prevention. "That is, on each of the 6,209 consecutive days included
in this study, an equivalent of a plane load or more of people died on the
But not all days are alike. Weekends are worse than weekdays, summer and
fall months have more deadly crashes than winter or spring months, and holidays
top the list for crash deaths.
The Institute studied U.S. Department of Transportation data from 1986-2002.
Information covered crashes on public roads resulting in a death within 30
days, including pedestrian deaths.
On average, more than 100 people per day died in car crashes in the U.S. The
death toll for a single day can range from 45 to 252 people, say the
July Fourth had the highest number of crash deaths (161). It had an average
of 12 more deaths than any other day of the year. This day also had a high
number of deaths involving alcohol.
The second worst day was July 3, with 149 crash deaths. Six of the 10 worst
days clustered around holidays -- July 2-4, Dec. 23, Jan. 1, and Sept. 2 (on or
near Labor Day).
The other four days all occurred in August, which had more vehicle travel
than any other month. In contrast, the 10 days of the year which averaged the
fewest crash deaths were in January and February. These months had the lightest
Evenings and weekends were the deadliest times on the roads. The worst hours
were from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., with each averaging 6.6 deaths per hour. By far,
Saturday had the most deaths (158). Next came Friday (133 deaths). Sunday was a
close third (132 deaths). Tuesday had the least fatalities (95).
Alcohol may partly explain why nights, weekends, and holidays had more crash
fatalities. For instance, almost half of New Year's Day deaths involved alcohol
Pedestrians account for nearly 13% of all crash deaths, say the researchers.
New Year's Day and Halloween (Oct. 31) had the highest average pedestrian death
rates -- each averaging 24 pedestrian deaths. All the other days with at least
20 pedestrian deaths happened from October through December. The day of the
year with the fewest pedestrian deaths was March 11 (11 deaths per day).
About 7% of crash deaths were among motorcyclists. June, July, and August
accounted for 41% of motorcyclist deaths.
Many people think they won't be affected, believing their driving skills are
superior. But that can't be true, since "almost everyone is a driver,"
says the Institute's Charles Farmer, and colleagues. They hope to jolt people
out of their false sense of security.