How Thanksgiving Became America’s Deadliest Holiday

November 3rd, 2017 | by RON BELL

How Thanksgiving Became America’s Deadliest Holiday

It’s not drunk-drivers on the Fourth of July, nighttime revelers of Halloween or even New Year’s Eve celebrators. Reports show the deadliest holiday in the United States is none other than Thanksgiving.

“Each Thanksgiving, we begin another holiday season while remembering all we are grateful for,” said Deborah A.P. Hersman, president, and CEO of the National Safety Council (NSC). “But do not let the frenetic pace of the season rush you on the roads. Be alert and drive defensively so you can celebrate at home, not sit in the emergency room.”

The NSC is a not-for-profit, non-governmental organization that tracks safety trends. They found a disturbing trend in 2015 that showed that Thanksgiving, more than any other holiday, had the highest number of car accidents. More than 400 people were expected to die on Thanksgiving that year. A later study in 2016 found there were exactly 386 Thanksgiving holiday travel period deaths. These deaths account for 12-percent of all the traffic deaths that November.

 Going back as far as 2010, the same trend applies. Thanksgiving deaths account for 12 to 13 percent of all traffic deaths in the month of November.


Start of the Travel Season 

Many holidays bring families together across large distances, but Thanksgiving and Christmas are the largest annually. In 2016, the American Automobile Association (AAA) estimated 48.7 million Americans would travel during Thanksgiving.

A National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) study in 2014 found a large number of drivers were involved in accidents.

“According to the most recent data available from NHTSA’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System, there were 764 crashes involving a fatality during Thanksgiving 2012. (About 400 of them involved motorists.) In comparison, there were 654 crashes involving a fatality during Christmas that year,” reported Forbes magazine. “There were nearly 50,000 non-fatal car accidents that Thanksgiving holiday, too.”


Travel Deaths Not Just Car Accidents

Dr. David Agus, when talking with the television program “CBS This Morning”, said that the planning for the trip on Thanksgiving could also be a contributing factor why Thanksgiving is among America’s deadliest holiday due to heart/cardiac issues.

“People forget their pills when they travel,” Agus pointed out. “They eat a lot of food which shunts the blood to the stomach and then they try to do too much – playing football in the yard – and it causes problems.”

The American Heart Association (AHA) warns that 33-percent more deaths related to coronary disease occur in the winter, and the beginning of that heart-attack season starts with a dramatic increase in deaths starting Thanksgiving and continuing through the New Year’s holiday.

“While researchers don’t know exactly why deaths are more common around the holidays, some possible reasons include changes in diet and alcohol consumption; stress from family interactions, strained finances, travel and entertaining; respiratory problems from burning wood; and lack of attention to the signs and symptoms of a heart attack,” AHA said.


Be Safe This Holiday Season

Nothing beats being well-prepared and planning ahead to reduce the death by accidents.  

Studies have shown that not wearing a seatbelt greatly increases the chance of death or serious injury. One study by the NHTSA says that 60-percent of the people who died in vehicle accidents on Thanksgiving in 2012 weren’t wearing a seatbelt, and 42-percent were killed in crashes involving a drunk driver.

“NSC recommends buckling up every trip, every time – even when traveling a short distance,” the NSC said in a press release.

Additionally, the NHTSA recommends never driving drunk and to “plan your travel and route by checking the weather, road conditions, and traffic. Leave early, if necessary, and allow plenty of time to safely get to your destination.”


If Involved in a Car Accident

 The holidays can be stressful enough without adding the stress of a car accident. If this does happen, though, it pays to know what to do.

  1. Have an Emergency Kit in the car that includes a first-aid kit, a set of cones, triangles, emergency flare and jumper cables.
  2. Exchange insurance and contact information with the other driver after the accident
  3. Photograph the accident to show the overall context of the accident as well as damage, and if witnesses saw the accident, get their contact information.
  4. File an accident report with police.


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