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.
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.
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:
The following dates had the highest number of crash fatalities in each of the five years:
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.
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:
We also looked at the deadliest day of the year for each of the fifty states (plus the District of Columbia).
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|
|Connecticut||August 4th, September 15th||10||10|
|District of Columbia||October 2nd||3||3|
|Hawaii||September 30th, March 31st||7||4|
|Illinois||April 9th, December 15th||27||24|
|Montana||July 5th, July 6th||10||8|
|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|
|Rhode Island||October 20th||5||5|
|South Carolina||April 9th||26||24|
|South Dakota||November 1st||8||5|
|West Virginia||August 10th||11||8|
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.
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:
As a driver or a rider, we can make the choice to:
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.
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