Thanksgiving Day

Thanksgiving Day Holiday Period Estimate for 2021

The National Safety Council (NSC) estimates 515 people may die on U.S. roads this Thanksgiving holiday period. If this estimate holds true, Thanksgiving 2021 will experience the most deaths since 2007. Holidays are traditionally a time of travel for families across the United States. Many choose car travel, which has the highest fatality rate of any major form of transportation based on fatalities per passenger mile. Holidays are also often cause for celebrations involving alcohol consumption, a major contributing factor to motor-vehicle crashes. Thanksgiving Day is observed on the fourth Thursday in November. The holiday is always a 4.25-day weekend consisting of Wednesday evening, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. In 2021 the Thanksgiving Day weekend extends from 6 p.m. Wednesday, November 24 to 11:59 p.m. Sunday, November 28.

Visit the Holiday Introduction page for a list of holiday periods and their definitions.

National Safety Council Estimate

There is uncertainty associated with any estimate. The 90% confidence interval for the estimate of traffic deaths this holiday is 445 to 589. This confidence interval cannot account for the unknown impact the evolving response to COVID-19 will have on holiday travel. Because of the unprecedented impact COVID-19 is having on social activities, the uncertainty of this year’s estimate is increased. This chart shows NSC Thanksgiving Day holiday fatality estimates and confidence intervals compared to the actual number of deaths. Because of the variability in travel habits during the COVID-19 pandemic, the confidence intervals for 2020 and 2021 are wider than in previous years, indicating less precision in this year’s estimate.

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Source: Estimates and confidence intervals are calculated by NSC; actual deaths reflect NSC analysis of National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) data.

Injuries

medically consulted injury is an injury serious enough that a medical professional was consulted. Based on the current medically consulted injury to death ratio of 114:1 and rounded to the nearest hundred, the estimate of nonfatal medically consulted injuries that will result from crashes during the holiday period is 58,800, with a 90% confidence interval of 50,800 to 67,200.

Lives saved with seat belts

Studies show seat belts, when used, are 45% effective in preventing fatalities among front-seat passenger car occupants (see note below for more details). An estimated 204 lives may be saved this Thanksgiving holiday period because vehicle occupants wear their seat belts. An additional 120 lives could be saved if everyone wears seat belts.

Impaired Driving

Nationwide, alcohol-impaired fatalities (involving blood-alcohol content of 0.08 g/dL or higher) in 2019 represented 28% of the total traffic fatalities. During the Thanksgiving Day period, 29% of fatalities involved an alcohol-impaired driver. This chart shows the historic trend of the percent of fatalities involving an alcohol-impaired driver.

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Source: NHTSA, Traffic Safety Facts Annual Report Tables

Note: Highest blood-alcohol concentration among drivers or motorcycle riders involved in the crash was 0.08 grams per deciliter (g/dL) or higher. The holiday periods used to calculate the percentages conform to the NHTSA holiday period definitions that add another quarter day to the periods used for the NSC estimate.

Although the reduction in the risk of fatal injury from wearing seat belts is higher for light-truck occupants at 50%, the lower figure for passenger car occupants is used in the calculations here as the more conservative measure. The most recent data from FARS indicate that seat belt use by fatally injured passenger car and light truck occupants was 48.4%.

See data details