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deadliest day of the year for motorists
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[Study] The Deadliest Day of the Year for Motorists

February 17, 2021 By Cerussi and Gunn P.C. Legal Team

On July 4, 2019, two people were killed in Jackson Township, New Jersey after their vehicle struck a tree and utility pole. An hour and a half later that afternoon, a motorcyclist died in the same county, after he struck the back of a car. On that day alone – Independence Day 2019 – more than a hundred occupants were killed in motor vehicle crashes across the United States.

We saw that the Fourth of July had an especially high number of traffic fatalities for one day, and we wanted to find out more. What other days, similarly to the Fourth of July, continue to be more dangerous for road users each year? What were the “deadliest days” over the last five years?

The NHTSA recently released fatal crash data from 2019 – revealing a steady decrease in motor vehicle deaths during the past three years. In 2019, 36,096 occupants were killed in fatal car crashes – a 1.2 percent decrease from 2018 (36,560 fatalities). The 2018 data also showed the same trend – a 1.5 decrease from 2017 (37,133 fatalities). Does this trend apply to the deadliest days of the year as well? 

After analyzing fatal crash data from 2015 to 2019, we found that the three deadliest days of the year were September 16th, July 4th, and August 4th.

What Are the Overall Deadliest Days of the Year? 

Deadliest Days of the Year graphic

Over the past five years, the two deadliest days on the road turned out to be September 16 and July 4 – Mexican Independence Day and Fourth of July, as shown in this heatmap chart below.

Deadliest day heatmap chart

It isn’t surprising that both are days of celebration, since they tend to be the busiest time on the road and involve the most alcohol consumption. Fourth of July is also the second deadliest day of the year for drunk driving.  

From 2015 to 2019, there were a total of 182,735 occupants killed in 168,123 motor vehicle crashes. Out of that, close to 1,300 people were killed on September 16th (646) and July 4th (643) over the five years.

For the most part, the ten deadliest days of the year fall in line with the “100 Deadliest Days of Summer” – the period between Memorial Day (May) and Labor Day (September). This is when teenagers are out on summer break and drivers with the least experience fill the roads. Due to their lack of experience and awareness, teenagers are already at a higher risk of getting killed in a fatal crash than drivers of other ages. That risk increases by 26 percent during the summer.

The Top Deadliest Days from 2015 to 2019:

  1. September 16 –  646 fatalities 
  2. July 4 – 643 fatalities
  3. August 4 – 629 fatalities
  4. July 14 – 619 fatalities
  5. September 30 – 613 fatalities 
  6. May 26 – 606 fatalities 
  7. September 3 – 604 fatalities 
  8. September 1 – 595 fatalities
  9. June 30 – 594 fatalities
  10. September 2 – 588 fatalities


Deadliest Day by Year

The following dates had the highest number of crash fatalities in each of the five years:

  • May 3, 2015 – 160 fatalities 
  • June 25, 2016 –  169 fatalities 
  • September 30, 2017 – 160 fatalities
  • October 6, 2018 – 163 fatalities 
  • August 12, 2019 – 149 fatalities 

The evening of September 30, 2017 was the end of the Jewish holiday, Yom Kippur. But for most of us, these dates will probably not ring a bell. They do, however, share one trait in common: Each of these dates falls on a Saturday or Sunday. Most fatal crashes occur on the weekend, and Saturdays are known to be the most dangerous day of the week, followed by Sunday.

overall deadliest day graphic

Trend for the Fourth of July

While the Fourth of July was the overall deadliest day of the year from 2015 to 2019, it had the most crash fatalities in 2015, compared to the following years. That makes sense since Independence Day 2015 happened to land on a Saturday – unlike the Fourth of July’s that followed.

Fourth of July crash fatalities from 2015 to 2019:

  • July 4, 2015 – 145 fatalities (Saturday)
  • July 4, 2016 – 116 fatalities (Monday)
  • July 4, 2017 – 136 fatalities (Tuesday)
  • July 4, 2018 – 139 fatalities (Wednesday)
  • July 4, 2019 – 107 fatalities (Thursday)


Deadliest Day by State

We also looked at the deadliest day of the year for each of the fifty states (plus the District of Columbia).

Most accident fatalities in a day in every state

For over half the states, the deadliest day falls in line with, or close to the “100 Deadliest Days of Summer.” Four states – Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois and Montana – had two days tied for the deadliest day of the year. In regard to holidays, New Year’s Day was the deadliest day of the year in Florida.


State Deadliest Day Fatalities Fatal Crashes
Alabama September 29th 25 21
Alaska September 3rd 6 3
Arizona November 8th 28 23
Arkansas September 26th 17 15
California November 17th 69 65
Colorado June 12th 19 17
Connecticut August 4th, September 15th 10 10
Delaware July 6th 9 5
District of Columbia October 2nd 3 3
Florida January 1st 70 67
Georgia December 21st 36 34
Hawaii September 30th, March 31st 7 4
Idaho July 14th 11 8
Illinois April 9th, December 15th 27 24
Indiana May 13th 26 21
Iowa August 14th 14 11
Kansas June 19th 16 11
Kentucky October 26th 25 21
Louisiana April 2nd 20 19
Maine August 5th 8 7
Maryland August 20th 16 15
Massachusetts April 30th 12 11
Michigan August 11th 28 28
Minnesota June 7th 13 13
Mississippi October 25th 24 19
Missouri August 10th 25 19
Montana July 5th, July 6th 10 8
Nebraska July 31st 12 7
Nevada September 5th 12 11
New Hampshire July 29th 10 6
New Jersey October 30th 16 16
New Mexico August 30th 16 8
New York October 6th 36 17
North Carolina September 18th 37 31
North Dakota July 15th 9 3
Ohio September 24th 32 28
Oklahoma August 24th 20 18
Oregon November 18th 15 11
Pennsylvania September 23rd 30 27
Rhode Island October 20th 5 5
South Carolina April 9th 26 24
South Dakota November 1st 8 5
Tennessee May 26th 29 26
Texas December 21st 80 68
Utah October 19th 14 7
Vermont August 7th 6 3
Virginia November 12th 23 20
Washington August 18th 17 13
West Virginia August 10th 11 8
Wisconsin August 28th 20 19
Wyoming August 8th 9 5
deadliest hours of the day graphic

Deadliest Hours of the Day

Deadliest hour of day for motorists polar chart

When in the day is it most dangerous to be on the road? We examined the data to find that, excluding holidays, the time slot that came up the most was 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. – which would typically be rush hour on workdays. 

On New Year’s, the deadliest hours on the road are 1 a.m. and 2 a.m. This could be around the time people are driving home from a New Year’s party, after sufficient alcohol consumption. On the Fourth of July, it is 10 p.m –  most likely when families drive home in high traffic after watching the fireworks show.

How this Data Can Help 

We hope that by knowing some of the deadliest days of the year, you can feel a little safer on the road. While no one can predict the future or when a fatal crash will occur, we can take extra precautions when one – and especially if all – of the following are concerned:

  • Holidays including New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day & Fourth of July 
  • Weekends, especially Saturdays
  • Rush hour on Weekdays 
  • Summer days between Memorial Day and Labor Day

As a driver or a rider, we can make the choice to: 

  • Stay over at a friend’s house instead of driving home on New Year’s alongside intoxicated drivers
  • Teach our teenage drivers safe practices, including staying alert at all times and avoiding distracted driving 
  • Practice patience while driving during the busiest times, whether that is rush hour, Saturday night, or a day of celebration

Methodology and Fair Use

Using 2015-2019 fatal crash data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), we determined which days of the year had the most fatalities caused by motor vehicles.

If you are interested in republishing any of the data, images, or interactive elements included above, please provide credit by linking to this page.