In addition to being needlessly stressful, obligatory holiday travel poses an elevated risk of roadway mishaps. Inclement weather, congested highways, and overtaxed drivers traversing long distances is an exceptionally bad formula. We don’t have to spell it out further; you’ve likely seen seasonal roadside tragedies firsthand and been thankful it wasn’t you.
However, depending on where you’re making your holiday pilgrimage this year, the associated risks could be much higher or lower than someone traveling a few states over. Not all regions are created equal, and some parts of the United States appear to be particularly susceptible to road fatalities during annual festivities.
Avvo, a legal services outlet that conducts periodic safety-related research, compiled data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) for the entirety of 2016. Cross referencing it against U.S. Census information showed the Southern United States as the region with the most deaths per capita during major holidays.
Mississippi led all states in fatal crashes, with more than two accidents per 100,000 residents. Alabama, Arkansas, South Carolina, and New Mexico also saw significantly higher rates than the rest of the country. While the data encompasses all major holidays, we already know the south has a problem with snowy weather. Since it doesn’t see much of the white stuff, southern governments don’t bother with the costly infrastructure required to cope with it. It doesn’t make sense to field a large number of salt trucks and plows when it’s more economical for the state to just shut everything down.
Southerners also don’t get a lot of practice driving on ice, which is further complicated by a regional market that doesn’t prioritize winter tires. “In the winter states, we advocate that drivers swap out their tires,” Sheri Herrmann, a communications coordinator with Continental, told CarInsurance.com in 2014. “We don’t sell a lot of snow tires in the South because they just don’t perform well in dry conditions. They’re OK. They’re just not optimal.”
There are also disparities between which state a driver originates from. Motorists from Wyoming were much more likely to be involved in holiday-related fatalities when traveling out-of-state — followed by residents from Washington D.C., Delaware, Mississippi, and Nevada.
However, while the colder season is more treacherous when stretched out as a whole, the winter holidays aren’t actually the most dangerous in terms of life-ending wrecks. People tend to stay put on Thanksgiving or Christmas, motoring cautiously on the days before or afterwards. That creates an opening for heavy-drinking holidays, like July 4th, where people venture home in the same evening. Independence Day the most likely to take a life, followed by Labor Day and Memorial Day.
So what can you do with this information? Other than worry more and use it to settle arguments with friends about which states have the worst drivers, not much. However, we hope you’ll take all of this into consideration when you’re out there (and take extra care if you’re in one of the sketchier states).