Thanksgiving Week Wrecks Likely to Spike Up to 34%

Nearly 42 million Americans expected to travel as gas prices plunge.

by on Nov.24, 2015

Crashes tend to spike during the holiday.

Between the holiday feasting and the Black Friday sales, Americans will be spending a lot of time on the road in the coming week, and whether it’s a little much turkey or a lack of sleep making them drowsy and distracted, highway crashes have a tendency to spike sharply around Thanksgiving.

The situation has apparently gotten worse since stores have extended their hours to draw in bigger crowds for the annual, pre-Christmas shopping extravaganza, according to new data from Progressive Insurance.

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This week could see even higher crash numbers as cheap fuel encourages more motorists to drive for the holiday. According to a forecast by AAA, nearly 50 million Americans will drive more than 50 miles this week.

One of the most heavily traveled holidays, crashes spike by as much as 34% during the extended Thanksgiving week, and the holiday ends with an especially high percentage of out-of-state accidents, according to the new study.

(10 automakers commit to making auto emergency braking standard. Click Here for the story.)

Progressive looked at data going back to 2010, comparing Thanksgiving week with the two weeks before and after the holiday and saw a significant jump in claims.

Crowded parking lots are the sight of many crashes, especially on Black Friday.

The biggest increase, a 34% spike in crashes, came on Black Friday. Nearly a third of those involved backing up or parking, “more than any other claim type filed on that day,” the insurer noted. That’s likely no surprise considering the rush to get to stores and malls, often in early hours when motorists may be tired or distracted.

Black Wednesday, which has become a sort of playoff game to Black Friday’s shopping Super Bowl, saw a 25% increase in wrecks. Nearly six in ten were single vehicle accidents where a motorist struck an animal or object.

Accidents jumped 20% on Thanksgiving night itself and 35% of the crashes involved one vehicle.

“A large chunk of the accidents,” noted Progressive, “were backing or parking-related, perhaps indicating that shoppers were getting a head start on the midnight Black Friday sales.”

The spike in crashes continued all the way through the weekend, and no surprise, with so many folks heading home after family gatherings, the Sunday after Thanksgiving saw the highest percentage of crashes involving vehicles traveling out-of-state.

Whether the pattern will hold this Thanksgiving remains to be seen, but the AAA anticipates a jump in travel this week, with 47 million Americans traveling at least 50 miles for the holiday, about 42 million of them by car.

The good news is that fuel prices are trending downward towards some of the lowest numbers Americans have paid all year. As of Tuesday, the national average price was $2.07 for a gallon of regular unleaded, and the figure dipped below $2.00 for about half the country.

On the downside, about 1,000 Americans are routinely killed in car crashes over the extended Thanksgiving holiday, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

(Feds warn that crash fatalities are on the rise this year. Click Here for the story.)

Experts offer a variety of suggestions for those who want to avoid becoming a statistic:

  • Try to rest before and during a long drive;
  • Switch drivers on extended trips, and use a designated driver – or call a cab – if you’re planning to drink;
  • Be aware of the 0.08% blood-alcohol limit, something 63% of Americans couldn’t identify in a recent survey for Responsibility.org;
  • Carry an emergency kit in your car, with the things you might in case of a crash or breakdown, including blankets, water, snacks, and flares or reflectors.

(Global survey finds strong interest in autonomous vehicles. Click Here to see what Americans said.)

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