Mississippi is the most dangerous state for driving during the Christmas holiday according to study

Published 1:15 pm Monday, December 20, 2021

With Christmas right around the corner, one company investigated the days Americans should be wary of when it comes to driving.

The study by the folks at getjerry.com discovered that Mississippi leads the country with the highest risk of road fatalities during the Christmas holiday — Dec. 21-29.

With 3.54 fatalities per 100,000 people, the Magnolia state topped the list of states just ahead of Montana, and Wyoming with the highest rates of fatal crashes during the holiday period.

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New Hampshire, Utah, and Rhode Island had the lowest number of fatal crashes per 100,000 people during the same period.

At Getjerry.com, the folks at Jerry use artificial intelligence and machine learning to offer car insurance comparisons. The website serves more than 1 million customers across the United States as a licensed insurance broker and is the fastest, easiest and only automated way to compare and save on car insurance. Jerry finds offers customers customized quotes from more than 50 insurance in a matter of seconds.

The study found that most fatal crashes happen on the 24th, Christmas Eve, and the 25th, Christmas Day.

Many people travel in order to reach their friends and family during the stretch between Dec. 23 and New Year’s Day.

One survey estimates that 122 million Americans will be traveling for a winter holiday in 2021. This results in an increased number of drivers on the road and a spike in car crash fatalities. Dec. 24, 25, and 26 have the highest rate of fatalities during the week surrounding Christmas, Dec. 21-29.

The overall rate of fatalities during the Christmas holiday is lower than the rate of fatalities on an average day, likely due to people spending most of their days inside with friends and family.

The consumption of alcohol during the holidays also contributes to the fatality rate: according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), approximately one-third of fatal crashes during the Christmas holiday between 2005-2019 involved a drunk driver. Increased traffic and alcohol consumption results in more dangerous drivers on the road, which leads to a noticeable spike in fatal car crashes during the holiday.

During the height of the Christmas holiday, many drivers end up heading home from family visits in the evening, accounting for the high rate of evening fatalities from Dec. 21-29.

The Pew Research Center also found that approximately 55% of Americans attend religious services during the Christmas holiday. Since this puts more drivers on the road during the holiday, this may also contribute to the spike of crashes on Christmas Eve.

In addition to heavier evening traffic, road visibility is also limited in late December. In the contiguous U.S., the sun fully sets by 6 p.m. during the Christmas holiday, impacting road visibility and contributing to the rate of fatalities. Due to this limited visibility and increased evening traffic, the risk of collision increases between 6-8 p.m. and contributes to the spike of fatal car crashes.

The most dangerous states for driving during the Christmas holiday are in the South and West

Mississippi (3.54), Montana (2.76), and Wyoming (2.58) all had the highest rates of fatalities per 100,000 people over the Christmas holiday period.

Mississippi has a higher rate of precipitation during winter months, which can make for dangerous driving at times.

Montana and Wyoming are both rural states with relatively few drivers on normal days, meaning that heavier traffic can cause unexpected crashes. In addition, both of these states have speed limits of 80 mph on rural interstates, which see more traffic during holidays. Higher speeds mean a higher risk of fatality if there is a crash, resulting in higher fatality rates for both states.

Wyoming also prioritizes a select number of roads for winter maintenance. While interstate roads and highways are maintained 20-24 hours a day, many “low volume” roads connecting to those highways are not plowed after sunset. For drivers who are unfamiliar with Wyoming roads, driving near unplowed roads in the dark can be dangerous, and can increase the risk of fatal crashes.

Similarly, Montana’s Department of Transportation only plows highways and interstates. For out-of-state drivers exiting or entering unfamiliar highways, this can be dangerous, especially after dark when the road’s condition might be hard to determine.  These states also have some of the highest fatality rates during the winter, and experience spikes of fatal crashes during Thanksgiving as well. Inclement weather, incomplete winter road maintenance, and high speed limits make these states particularly dangerous to drive through from late November all the way to February.

The safest states for driving during the Christmas holiday are in the Southwest and New England.  The states with the lowest rates of fatalities per 100,000 people over the Christmas holiday period are New Hampshire (0.66), Utah (0.63), and Rhode Island (0.38).

Utah, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire regularly experience snowfall during the winter, so most drivers in these states have experience driving in the snow.

In addition, Rhode Island and New Hampshire have speed limits of 65 mph on rural interstate roads, save for a few road segments in New Hampshire with limits of 70 mph, which lowers the risk of fatalities in crashes.

Rhode Island, New Hampshire, and Utah also prepare for winter storms by regularly salting, sanding, and plowing public roads, which lowers the risk of accidents altogether. By maintaining roads, keeping lower speed limits, and having a population familiar with snow.

To stay safe this Christmas, drive during daylight. Avoid traveling on traffic-heavy days, and make sure you’re comfortable driving safely in unfamiliar areas at higher speeds. And never get behind the wheel if you’ve had anything to drink, as driving while impaired can increase your chances of an accident.