Will You Make It Safely to Thanksgiving Dinner? Some Eye-Opening Auto Crash Statistics for the Holiday

The AAA forecasts that more than 49.3 million travelers will hit the road this Thanksgiving holiday between Wednesday, Nov. 27 to Sunday, Dec. 1. If you are one of them, here is some information regarding how safe you will be in your travels.

National Statistics

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that there will be 454 motor vehicle traffic crash fatalities during this year’s Thanksgiving holiday period, which it calculates from Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2019 at 6 p.m. to Monday, Dec. 2, 2019 at 5:59 a.m. By way of comparison, NHTSA reports that in 2017 there were 528 motor vehicle traffic crash fatalities during the Thanksgiving holiday period.

The National Safety Council is a bit more optimistic, estimating that 417 people may be killed on U.S. roadways during the upcoming holiday. The council says that the fatality estimate is down nearly 4 percent compared with last year, which is in line with an estimated drop in overall motor vehicle deaths in the U.S.

The council further estimates that 47,500 people may be seriously injured in car crashes during the Thanksgiving holiday period.

Pennsylvania Statistics

Closer to home, Pennsylvania State troopers investigated 1,116 crashes from the Wednesday before Thanksgiving in 2018 through the Sunday after, according to news reports. This marked a whopping 13.8 percent increase from the five-day holiday driving period in 2017.

The crashes included 80 alcohol-related incidents, 213 injuries, and four deaths. State troopers reportedly made 637 DUI arrests over the five-day holiday period, a slight increase over the 629 DUI arrests they made in 2017. Troopers additionally issued 13,863 speeding citations.

Note that the statistics for Pennsylvania State troopers do not include incidents investigated by local police departments in Pennsylvania. To that end, PennDOT in its “2017 Pennsylvania Crash Facts & Statistics Report” reports that on Thanksgiving in 2017 there were 1,288 reported crashes on Pennsylvania’s roadways with nine reported fatalities. During the pre-Thanksgiving travel weekend there were 1,766 crashes with 11 fatalities, and during the post-Thanksgiving travel weekend there were 1,455 crashes with six fatalities.

Safety Tips for Thanksgiving Driving

In advice that isn’t limited to the Thanksgiving holiday, the National Safety Council urges motorists not to drive under the influence of alcohol and drugs. The council notes that the consumption of marijuana (which is legal in some states) and opioid painkillers can “impact judgment, reflexes and cognitive dexterity, increasing the risk of death and injury behind the wheel.”

The council further advocates that all vehicle passengers wear seatbelts no matter what seating position they occupy. According to the council, an estimated 165 lives may be saved this Thanksgiving holiday period if vehicle occupants wear seatbelts.

Other safety tips include:

  • Practicing defensive driving
  • Appointing a designated, sober driver
  • Avoiding fatigued driving
  • Avoiding distracted driving, including cellphone use and texting
  • Ensuring that your vehicle is in good working order and does not have any open recalls


We wish everyone a happy and safe Thanksgiving. But please be careful out there.