Most Americans look forward to a long holiday weekend as a chance to take off work and enjoy time with friends and family. We associate these holidays with warm feelings of tradition – from summertime cookouts to reconnecting with loved ones we don’t see often enough.
Unfortunately, these holiday periods also are associated with an uptick in car crashes resulting in serious injury and death.
Many Americans embark on trips during the holidays, and the car – which has the highest fatality rate per passenger mile of any major form of transportation – is one of the most popular modes of travel. Because the holidays often involve celebrations with alcohol, fatal motor-vehicle crashes attributed to impaired driving also increase.
Prior to each major holiday weekend: New Year’s Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, the National Safety Council (NSC) releases a fatality and injury estimate. NSC examines the latest estimates for each holiday in detail in this section.
These estimates represent deaths and injuries that don’t have to occur. Each one is preventable. All drivers can help make our roads safer, especially during the holidays, by practicing defensive driving, buckling up, and designating a sober driver or arranging for alternate transportation. Drivers also should get plenty of sleep to avoid fatigue, drive attentively, and avoid distractions.
To better understand the estimates and how they are calculated, it is helpful to know how NSC defines each holiday period. Here are the holiday periods for the remainder of 2019 and for 2020, followed by a table establishing holiday traffic fatality counting periods and the observed days for each holiday.
2020 Holiday Periods
New Year’s Day (2020)
Begins: 6 p.m., Tuesday, December 31, 2019
Ends: 11:59 p.m., Wednesday, January 1, 2020
Memorial Day (2020)
Begins: 6 p.m., Friday, May 22
Ends: 11:59 p.m., Monday, May 25
Independence Day (2020)
Begins: 6 p.m., Thursday, July 2
Ends: 11:59 p.m., Sunday, July 5
Labor Day (2020)
Begins: 6 p.m., Friday, September 4
Ends: 11:59 p.m., Monday, September 7
Thanksgiving Day (2020)
Begins: 6 p.m., Wednesday, November 25
Ends: 11:59 p.m., Sunday, November 29
Christmas Day (2020)
Begins: 6 p.m., Thursday, December 24
Ends: 11:59 p.m., Sunday, December 27
New Year’s Day (2021)
Begins: 6 p.m., Thursday, December 31, 2020
Ends: 11:59 p.m., Sunday, January 3, 2021
Holiday Period Definitions
The National Safety Council Statistics Department has traditionally followed the rules in the table below to establish holiday traffic fatality counting periods.
|If the holiday falls on:|
|The holiday period is from 6 p.m. of the first day listed to 11:59 p.m. of the last day listed:|
|New Year’s Day||Friday-Monday||Friday-Monday||Friday – Tuesday||Tuesday-Wednesday||Wednesday-Sunday||Thursday – Sunday||Thursday – Sunday|
|Independence Day||Friday-Monday||Friday-Monday||Friday – Tuesday||Tuesday-Wednesday||Wednesday-Sunday||Thursday – Sunday||Thursday – Sunday|
|Christmas Day||Friday-Monday||Friday-Monday||Friday – Tuesday||Tuesday-Wednesday||Wednesday-Sunday||Thursday – Sunday||Thursday – Sunday|
Holidays are observed as follows:
New Year’s Day: January 1
Memorial Day: last Monday in May
Independence Day: July 4
Labor Day: first Monday in September
Thanksgiving Day: fourth Thursday in November
Christmas Day: December 25