REPORT: Utah has one of the lowest Thanksgiving fatal car crash rates in the nation


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(ABC4)- If you think the Thanksgiving holiday is as safe as any other time of the year to drive, think again.

Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and compiled by A.I. auto insurance company Jerry, says the most dangerous times to drive on Thanksgiving are between 2 and 3 a.m when bar-goers may be heading home and between 6 and 7 p.m. after Thanksgiving dinner. Data also shows that fatal crashes double during Thanksgiving week compared to all other weeks of the year. 

The NHTSA gathered the data on crashes from public records available from state and local governments. 

Lakshmi Iyengar, who is a data scientist with Jerry, told ABC4 that Utah experiences 1.4 fatal crashes out of every 100,000 persons on Thanksgiving day, which is in the lower spectrum of crashes. The states with the highest fatal highway crash rates per capita on Thanksgiving Day are Mississippi, Wyoming, Louisiana, New Mexico, and Alabama.

The Saturday after Thanksgiving is also a dangerous day to drive. Data shows on a national average, there were 197 fatal crashes for every 100,000 persons on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, which is almost double the daily average on other days of the year at 101 fatal crashes for every 100,000 persons. Utah averaged about 45 fatal crashes out of 100,000 persons on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. 

With the focus on Thanksgiving Day itself and the Saturday after, it begs to wonder why the day after Thanksgiving, typically known as “Black Friday,” isn’t mentioned in the data.

“Black Friday does have increased crashes compared to an average day,” Iyengar told ABC4, “but Thanksgiving Day and the Saturday after Thanksgiving have more.”

Iyengar said the reason for the high number of crashes on the Saturday after was because people are going home after the holiday but there is another reason.

“Thanksgiving is one of the biggest drinking holidays for Americans and it’s very plausible that Saturday is a going-out night for a lot of people,” Iyengar said. ABC4 asked what prompted the study, especially since it was focused on Thanksgiving Day.

“We have been looking into fatal crash statistics to see what are safer and what are less safe driving conditions and we were realizing that there were pretty important patterns about crashes over different times,” Iyengar said. 

With Thanksgiving coming up, it prompted the idea of looking at that period specifically with regards to fatal crashes. After looking at the data for that period, it was found that the Thanksgiving saw a spike in fatal crashes. 

Specific details compiled by Jerry can be found here.

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