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Deadliest States and Counties for Drivers on Thanksgiving

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Mandy Sleight
Updated April 12, 2023
4 Min Read

The Thanksgiving holiday is fast approaching, and AAA expects it to be a record year for car travel. AAA estimates almost 49 million people will travel by car to spend time with family and friends, an increase of 1.5% from 2021. With so many people hitting the road, how can you stay safe while traveling?

The Insurance Bulletin analyzed publicly available data to determine the best and worst states for driving this season. Plus, we’ll provide tips on how to stay safe while traveling for Thanksgiving and how your car insurance rates could be affected.

States with the most traffic fatalities during Thanksgiving

Millions will be traveling from 6:00 PM Wednesday until 5:59 AM Monday morning to gather for the Thanksgiving holiday. Unfortunately, not everyone will make it back home after the long weekend is over. After analyzing the data for mortality rates per 100,000 residents, we found the top 14 states for Thanksgiving holiday fatalities are:

StateFatalities per 100,000
Mississippi
4.23
Montana
4.14
Wyoming
3.46
Florida
3.05
South Carolina
2.87
Oklahoma
2.62
Idaho
2.54
Arizona
2.48
Missouri
2.44
Alabama
2.37
Louisiana
2.28
West Virginia
2.23
Georgia
2.20
North Carolina
2.16

Hover over the map to see data per state

If you plan to travel in or to any of these states by car this Thanksgiving, stay extra vigilant and leave plenty of time to reach your destination.

Counties with the most traffic fatalities during Thanksgiving

Fatality data can vary widely by state and also by county. We analyzed the data in counties with more than 100,000 residents to see which counties have the highest incidence of Thanksgiving holiday fatalities. The top 10 counties for Thanksgiving fatalities across the U.S. are:

Co., StateFatalities per 100,000
Flagler Co., Florida
12.63
Indian River Co., Florida
11.01
Pickens Co., South Carolina
10.77
Carroll Co., Georgia
10.55
Skagit Co., Washington
9.96
Franklin Co., Missouri
9.8
Yavapai Co., Arizona
9.61
Johnson Co., Texas
9.52
Charlotte Co., Florida
9.43
Cecil Co., Maryland
8.81

Hover over the map to see data per county

States with the least traffic fatalities during Thanksgiving

Although Thanksgiving weekend is one of the most dangerous periods of the year to drive, there are some states where you are less likely to see high numbers of fatalities. However, don’t let that give you a false sense of security if you’re traveling in one of these 14 states:

StateFatalities per 100,000
Rhode Island
0.36
Vermont
0.47
Minnesota
0.53
New York
0.65
Alaska
0.68
Massachusetts
0.70
Nebraska
0.82
Pennsylvania
0.97
New Jersey
0.99
North Dakota
1.03
New Hampshire
1.09
Nevada
1.09
Ohio
1.11
Washington
1.22

Counties with the least traffic fatalities during Thanksgiving

In the bottom 10 counties with at least 100,000 residents, 3 fall in New York, and 2 in California, Texas, and Ohio. There is also 1 county in Massachusetts with a lower incidence of Thanksgiving holiday fatalities than other counties and states. Although New York county has one of the highest population densities in the country, it has the lowest instance of traffic fatalities on Thanksgiving.

Co., StateFatalities per 100,000
New York Co., New York
0.12
Montgomery Co., Ohio
0.19
Westchester Co., New York
0.21
Cameron Co., Texas
0.24
San Francisco Co., California
0.24
San Mateo Co., California
0.26
Butler Co., Ohio
0.27
Fort Bend Co., Texas
0.29
Norfolk Co., Massachusetts
0.29
Rockland Co., New York
0.31

Drivers most likely to be involved in a fatal crash

If you’re a male or under the age of 30, you’re more likely to be involved in a fatal crash this Thanksgiving weekend.

Drivers between the ages of 18 and 29 were involved in 37% more fatal crashes than drivers in older age groups. These drivers also tend to pay the highest car insurance premiums of other age groups, mostly due to inexperience behind the wheel, which also contributes to the higher likelihood of being involved in a crash. An at-fault accident can drive up insurance rates even more.

Compared to women, men are twice as likely to be the driver in a fatal crash. If you’re a man between the ages of 45 and 65, you have almost three times the chances to be a driver in a fatality. Men often find they pay higher auto insurance premiums for a woman the same age, and the higher risk of causing a crash is one of the biggest factors.

Safest places to travel by car in the U.S. this Thanksgiving holiday weekend

The Northeast of the U.S. is one of the safest to travel by car this Thanksgiving holiday weekend. When comparing the data per 100,000 residents, rural areas have higher death rates than other parts of the country. This is likely due to the length of time on the road to get to a destination compared to urban areas, which have more access to public transportation and are less reliant on cars overall.

Across the country, the Southern and Southwestern regions of the U.S. have a greater number of fatalities per 100,000 residents than other regions. The rates are even higher in rural areas in the northwest of the country, such as Montana and Wyoming.

Thanksgiving is considered one of the most dangerous days of the year

When comparing the data, Thanksgiving is one of the most dangerous days of the year for traffic fatalities. 17 states have a less than 100% incidence of crash fatalities compared to the yearly average. (100% means you’re just as likely to be in a fatal car crash during the Thanksgiving holiday as any other day of the year. 200% means you’re twice as likely, 300% means 3 times as likely and so on.) Most of the states, as shown below, have an increase in fatalities on Thanksgiving relative to the rest of the year:

StateLikelihood of Thanksgiving fatality relative to the rest of the year
Vermont
270%
Alaska
236%
Rhode Island
225%
Nebraska
212%
Minnesota
189%
North Dakota
183%
New Mexico
165%
Nevada
156%
Kentucky
151%
Arkansas
142%
Indiana
139%
Pennsylvania
139%
Ohio
137%
Colorado
134%
South Dakota
131%
Maine
127%
Michigan
124%
Tennessee
123%
New York
121%
Delaware
120%
Alabama
118%
Louisiana
113%
Wisconsin
108%
New Hampshire
108%
Virginia
107%
Kansas
104%
Georgia
104%
South Carolina
104%
Massachusetts
104%
New Jersey
103%
Oregon
102%
West Virginia
100%
Illinois
100%
North Carolina
98%
Oklahoma
98%
Missouri
96%
Texas
95%
Arizona
92%
Washington
92%
Wyoming
91%
Maryland
91%
Iowa
89%
Connecticut
88%
Utah
82%
California
81%
Mississippi
80%
Florida
80%
Hawaii
75%
Idaho
75%
Montana
57%

Does Thanksgiving holiday fatality data affect your car insurance rates?

Car insurance companies may ask for a general rate increase from the state if their costs of doing business have increased related to accidents, claims costs, and car thefts. Although one holiday weekend will probably not affect your car insurance rates, if you personally cause an accident, receive a ticket, or get convicted of a DUI, your premium may increase.

Tips for staying safe on the roads during Thanksgiving travel

No matter where you’re traveling this weekend, stay extra vigilant and follow our tips below for ways to stay safe this Thanksgiving holiday season.

  • Plan your route before you get behind the wheel.
  • Avoid the most congested highways.
  • Use rideshare if you plan to drink.
  • Make sure your vehicle is road ready (check tire pressure, get an oil change, etc.)
  • Travel during the off-hours and avoid times when more drivers are on the road.
  • Avoid driving distractions – don’t text and drive.
  • Know the signs of drunk driving (braking suddenly, weaving, tailgating, not maintaining consistent speeds).
  • Leave plenty of time to get to your destination.
  • Check the weather before you leave and make any necessary adjustments.
  • Review your car insurance policy to ensure you have the coverage in place to protect yourself in case of an accident, like collision coverage and roadside assistance.
  • Ensure all occupants are wearing their seatbelts.
  • Be aware and practice defensive driving.

Methodology

The Insurance Bulletin used data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) on fatal accidents from 2016 to 2020 and U.S. Census data on a county and state level to examine where there were greater incidence of fatal car crashes based on population.

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