10 Worst Days for Driving

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By Mark Vallet

It turns out that all days are not created equal, especially when it comes to driving.

Statistics clearly show there are a number of days each year where it’s just more dangerous out on the road. While most of these bad driving days fall around a holiday, there are a few surprises that you might not expect.

The hazards for these high-risk days stem from simply more traffic on the roads to a higher percentage of drunken drivers and even football fans who are driving more aggressively than usual.

Here are 10 dangerous driving days:

1.Memorial Day weekend

This holiday is often considered the start of summer, and in most years, it is a bad day to drive. According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), about 400 people a year die during a typical Memorial Day weekend, and on average there are 13.1 percent more traffic deaths than on a non-holiday weekend.

Booze is a big factor; 44 percent of all traffic fatalities that occur over Memorial Day are alcohol-related.

It is a big driving weekend as well.  AAA projected last year that 36.1 million drivers would drive at least 50 miles from home during Memorial Day Weekend. Too many cars on the road, combined with booze-fueled parties and barbecues, results in more accidents and more deaths.

2. The start of daylight saving time

Losing that extra hour of sleep just might raise your insurance rates.

A new study, “Spring Forward at your Own Risk: Daylight Saving Time and Fatal Vehicle Crashes” by Austin Smith at the University of Colorado Boulder, found that during the first six days of daylight saving time there were 302 driving-related deaths and associated costs of $2.75 billion over a 10-year period.

Even more surprising, the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (a division of the NHTSA) discovered a 17 percent increase in traffic fatalities on the Monday after the shift to Daylight Savings Time.

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3. Black Friday

On any given Black Friday, there are 60 to 70 million shoppers at the local mall trolling for bargains. All of those cars, combined with too few parking spots, lead to a record number of parking lot accidents.

Progressive Insurance examined its data and discovered that from 2010 to 2011 the number of claims on Black Friday doubled and parking lot claims rose 36 percent. Rear-end accidents made up 12.5 percent of claims, while 11.1 percent involved a parked car being hit.

Jeff Sibel, spokesperson for Progressive, offers a couple of tips. “Protecting your car can be as simple as parking further away in the parking lot. Use your eyes, ears and mirrors to be on the lookout for any sudden movements and drive slowly in the parking lots.”

4. NFL game day

Your favorite football team might just get you into a car accident, especially if it loses.

A study done by the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) found that claim frequency around the stadium went up on game day. Increases ranged from 8.2 percent to a whopping 79.7 percent.

A home-team win lessens the increase significantly with collision claims only rising by 3.2 percent. A loss, on the other hand, led to aggressive driving with accident claims jumping 9.4 percent.

The collision effect was highest for the New Orleans Saints stadium (35.3 percent), followed by the Detroit Lions (28.5 percent). The Pittsburgh Steelers round out the top three with a 22 percent increase.

5. Friday the 13th

Some superstitions may just be true.

Aviva, the largest insurer in the U.K., examined data from 2004 to 2013 and found that collision claims went up roughly 13 percent on Friday the 13th when compared with other days in the same month. Strangely enough, it didn’t matter what season Friday the 13th fell in; the numbers always went up, winter, spring, summer or fall.

The study also found that roughly 9 percent of drivers keep a lucky charm in their vehicle and an odd 5 percent associated a bird pooping on their car as a good omen.

6. New Year’s Day

New Year’s Day turns out to be the big killer, not New Year’s Eve. The deadliest day of the year varies by year, but New Year’s Day almost always ranks in the top five. It should come as no surprise that booze is a huge factor.

January 1st ranked as the No. 1 day of the year with the highest percent of deaths related to alcohol, according to Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) data.

Analysis by the National Safety Council discovered that over the New Year’s holiday season for 2007-2011, roughly 42 percent of traffic fatalities were related to drinking and driving.

The first day of the year is still risky for your car even if you stay home: Historically it’s one of the days of the year with a high amount of car thefts.

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Photo: Enrique Dans

7. July 4th

According to IIHS data, the Fourth of July ranked as the deadliest day to be out on the road from 2000-2013.

There are a number of reasons this holiday is so deadly, says Russ Rader with IIHS, “There’s a lot of travel that day, and more cars on the road leads to more crashes. In addition, people are going to events that often include alcohol.”

In fact, according to IIHS data, July 4th is the second deadliest day of the year for drunken drivers with 42 percent of accidents involving at least one driver testing over the limit.

“The best advice is common sense. Never go without your safety belt fastened, obey the speed limit, and don’t drink and drive. If everyone did those things, we’d have a lot fewer deaths on the July 4th holiday,” advises Rader.

8. Thanksgiving

This family holiday ranks as one of the busiest travel periods just about every year. AAA projected that 46.3 million Americans would take to the road and drive at least 50 miles from home in 2014. As Thanksgiving always falls on a Thursday, most travelers head out on Wednesday, making it the busiest travel day of the Thanksgiving holiday.

“Thanksgiving is a driving holiday, and not all drivers are paying attention to the task at hand. Some are inebriated on booze, turkey, or both. “All of this leads to more accidents,“ says Kristofer Kirchen, President of Advanced Insurance Managers.

9. Christmas

The Christmas holiday season tends to be stressful, and that leads to accidents. Data from the HLDI show that collision claims increase by roughly 20 percent in December.

David Brown, a University of Alabama professor, analyzed 10 years of crash data in Alabama and found that the six days around Christmas were particularly deadly, with accident numbers that were 27 percent higher than New Year’s Eve.

Holiday stress combined with busy roads can lead to more aggressive driving. A State Farm survey found that 32 percent of drivers were more likely to show signs of aggression or road rage during the holidays.

10. St. Patrick’s Day

This can be the mother of all drinking holidays, which is why it often makes the list of dangerous days to drive.

NHTSA statistics indicate that 276 people were killed over St. Patrick’s Day weekends from 2009 to 2013. In fact, two out of five crash fatalities over St. Patrick’s Day involved drunken driving. After midnight is the worst time to be on the road.

When it comes to St. Patrick’s Day, a designated driver could be your lucky charm.

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