Why Does Thanksgiving Have a Dangerous Reputation?

Thanksgiving is consistently listed as one of the year’s most dangerous holidays – why?  A major increase of cars on the road, alcohol, and drowsy drivers all have something to do with it.

With Thanksgiving only a week away, you are most likely in the process of finalizing your holiday plans.  Many of you have plans that involve some form of travel.  For years Thanksgiving has been consistently rated one of the most dangerous holidays for travel.  Why is this holiday considered particularly dangerous?  What does this mean for your plans next week?  If you are in an accident and become injured, what should you do?  These are all questions we plan to answer so you and your family may be a little more prepared next week.

Whether you are having dinner a few miles down the road or you are spending a couple of days with family out of state, you will probably travel by car.  In fact, the overwhelming majority of Americans choose to drive to their Thanksgiving destinations – an estimated 90% to be more specific.  Over the next week, this major influx of vehicles on the road will present some issues.

For starters, as the volume of cars on the road increases, the probability of accidents and subsequent injury or fatality also increases.  Yes, the sheer number of cars on the road will increase your likelihood of being involved in an accident.  This does not even account for other risk factors, such as those who will drive drowsy or under the influence.

After you eat your turkey dinner, you may begin to experience the effects of tryptophan and become sleepy – or you may simply be exhausted from celebrating.  Drowsy driving is particularly dangerous.  Overly-tired drivers can be less attentive, react more slowly, and have the potential to make impaired decisions.  A report by the CDC states, “Cognitive impairment after approximately 18 hours awake is similar to that of someone with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.05%.”

Many Thanksgiving celebrations include alcohol.  For some, the celebration begins with family and friends at a bar or restaurant on the eve of Thanksgiving.  For others, this may include a few drinks while watching football on Thursday or at dinner on Thursday night.  In 2009, an article by Forbes referenced a report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration which reported nearly half of all traffic fatalities on Thanksgiving involved alcohol.

Upon considering factors such as drunk driving and drowsy driving, in conjunction with an abnormally high volume of cars on the road, it is not difficult to understand why Thanksgiving is listed as one of the year’s most dangerous holidays.  Last year, USA Today listed Thanksgiving as the third most dangerous holiday, followed by Memorial Day and Independence Day.  You can read their complete synopsis of accident statistics from recent Thanksgiving holidays below.  USA Today’s full list of most dangerous holidays can be found here.

“Over the six-year period between 2006 and 2011, traffic deaths around Thanksgiving accounted for nearly 15% of all vehicle-related fatalities in November.  Between 2001 and 2007, driving fatalities during the holiday were in excess of 500 each year, peaking at 623 in 2006.  Over the last five years, however, deaths have not exceeded 500.  In 2011, just 375 people died on the road over the holiday, the fewest deaths since at least 1995.  This year, the NSC estimates deaths rose to 436, with an additional 46,600 nonfatal injuries, which include all unintentional injuries that require medical consultation, over the travel period running from Wednesday evening through Sunday.”

Nothing can ruin a holiday more than an accident or serious injury.  If you are in a car accident, and you or a loved one suffered a resulting injury, there are three important calls you should make.

  • Call the police. The officer will write a police report documenting the incident and any necessary details.  Collect any insurance information from the other parties involved.  Take pictures of the scene, if possible.
  • Call a doctor or visit a hospital to get an examination and assessment of any injuries. Take photos to document those injuries.
  • Call an attorney and schedule a consultation. An accident attorney will be able to talk with you about the situation in person or over the phone.  This conversation will provide you with information regarding the potential of your case and valuable next steps when moving forward.

Throughout this next week, keep in mind that you are at a greater risk of an accident simply by being on the road.  Remember to monitor your alcohol consumption if you plan to get behind the wheel, and do not drive if you are especially tired.  Most importantly, travel safely and enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday with your loved ones!

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