12/24/2013 - Pre-Christmas days dangerous for drivers
Despite being not quite as busy on the roadways compared to how many motorists are traveling on Thanksgiving, it's more dangerous to drive right around Christmastime than during November's signature holiday, according to a newly released study out of the University of Alabama.
In order to arrive at this determination, researchers from the UA's Center for Advanced Public Safety examined auto insurance crash data from the past decade surrounding the holidays of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's. While there was an increased incidence of accidents around each of these festive periods, there was a 12% spike in auto accidents in the immediate lead-up and days following Dec. 25, and 18% more than the period surrounding Jan. 1.
David Brown, professor of computer science at UA who also serves as a CAPS research associate, suggested that the difference may boil down to stress deriving from holiday purchases, which typically aren't associated with Thanksgiving.
"The shopping days before Christmas are perilous," said Brown.
He added that it also may have something to do with motorists being in a different part of their city or community that they aren't familiar with.
At the same time, though, driving on the actual days of observance tend to see fewer crashes. This may not come as a surprise, given that many people on Christmas, Thanksgiving and New Year's Day are off the road, enjoying time spent with family and friends, UA researchers pointed out.
This isn't to suggest that the busiest travel period of the year - i.e. Thanksgiving - isn't without its safety risks. In 2012, the latest year for which data is available, approximately 420 people were killed after being involved in a highway accident, according to statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.