Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day – Most Dangerous Time to Drive

Before you go over the river and through the woods to grandma’s house this holiday season, make sure to be particularly cautious, attentive, and defensive on North Carolina’s highways.

The Wednesday before Thanksgiving through January 1st (including New Year’s day) are some of the most dangerous and deadly times to be on the roads. In fact, Thanksgiving eve has become THE most dangerous night of the year to drive, particularly in more urban areas, says SCRAM, makers of alcohol monitoring technology. Known as Blackout Wednesday, this holiday has surpassed New Year’s Eve and St. Patrick’s Day as the biggest drinking night of the year.

Add to this more traffic, more distractions, aggressive drivers, and more social occasions involving alcohol. It is up to each of us to:

  • Practice safe, defensive driving
  • Buckle up and make sure all passengers are buckled too.
  • Make sure you, or your driver, are fit to drive – not tipsy or drowsy. If you are a passenger, help minimize distractions and help the driver stay awake and alert.

In general: If you see something, say something. If you see someone who has had too much to drink trying to get behind the wheel, say something. If you’re at a party, tell the host to take their keys, or call a designated driver for them.

A hand grabbing a glass of whiskey next to car keys, representing drunk driving.

If you are the party host, pay particular attention to how much alcohol you serve guests. If they injure someone while driving home, you could be liable under North Carolina law.


AAA reported that in 2015 more than 1.2 million people drove throughout North Carolina to their Thanksgiving destinations. No surprise, this family holiday ranks as one of the busiest travel periods just about every year. More cars on the roads too often translate to more accidents. Add alcohol to the equation, and this holiday weekend can turn deadly.

In fact, in 2019, North Carolina’s Thanksgiving holiday resulted in the highest number of alcohol-related traffic accidents and injuries of all holiday periods measured.


The Christmas holiday season can be stressful. Combine stress with busy roads and you can get aggressive drivers. A State Farm survey found that nearly one-third of drivers were more likely to show signs of aggression or road rage during the holidays.

Christmas on North Carolina’s roads was surprisingly tame in 2019, according to the stats, though alcohol was still cited in 53 crashes, 20 injuries, and one death. Comparing to the previous year (220 crashes, 136 injuries, and eight deaths), 2019 seems tame – until you realize that Christmas in 2019 included no additional days due to falling on a weekend. Because of the way the state calculates the length of the holiday, 2019’s statistics come from three fewer days!

New Year’s Day

A surprise to some, New Year’s Day (not New Year’s Eve) almost always ranks in the top five deadliest days of the year and has been ranked the deadliest day. Alcohol – a primary culprit.

Partygoers clinking three glass flutes of champagne at a holiday celebration.

The New Year’s holiday in North Carolina saw the state tie a five-year high at five alcohol-related traffic deaths – 71% of all traffic fatalities during the two-day span.

Alcohol Behind Nearly Half of Holiday Car Crash Deaths

There’s one thing each of these deadly days has in common: Drunk drivers. Over a 25-year period, according to a Forbes study that analyzed U.S. Department of Transportation data since 1982, nearly half the fatalities during these times were alcohol-related.

North Carolina’s statistics are not so dire, though the state does measure slightly differently than the USDOT. There were 24 alcohol-related traffic fatalities during North Carolina’s holiday driving season in 2019 – accounting for just 26% of the 91 total deaths during holiday driving.

Tragic Consequences of North Carolina Drunk Driving

Here’s a tragic story the News & Observer reported on about a drunk driving collision and a 22-year-old driver faced with 70 years in prison. He was charged with multiple felonies after a collision he caused in Raleigh, which led to three deaths and multiple injuries.

The crash happened at 2:30 on a Sunday morning. He was driving drunk and traveling about 50 mph in a 35-mph zone. He lost control of the car and it went off the road, struck a light pole, a street sign, and a tree before overturning.

There were seven people inside the car. One of the victims was sitting in the lap of the driver at the time of the accident. The victims were just 22, 21, and 18. Two of the victims were thrown from the vehicle.

The young driver, who is the son of a pastor, was accused of six felony charges which can potentially carry a prison sentence of nearly 70 years total. He faces 17 years for each death and seven years for each serious injury.

Three lives ended. Another potentially behind bars for life. This deadly and totally preventable collision is just one of many fatal accidents that occur throughout North Carolina. The three young people who died will never enjoy another holiday with their families. And sadly, neither will the driver who killed them. He will likely be behind bars because a driver made the wrong choice to drink and drive.

North Carolina in Top 10 of Worst States for Drunk Driving ranked North Carolina seventh in terms of worst states for drunk driving in 2018. The state was given a DUI severity score of 9.24. The North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) publishes an annual report detailing traffic fatalities in the state. In 2019, North Carolina’s statistics were as follows:

  • 348 traffic deaths as a result of alcohol impairment
    • (23.7% of all traffic deaths)
  • 4,961 crashes involved a driver whose blood-alcohol content (BAC) was above the legal limit of 0.08.

Designate a Driver – It’s Easier Than Ever

As you head into the holiday party season, keep in mind there are many more options today than ever for a sober ride home. Uber, Lyft, a North Carolina Designated Driver service, a taxi – and of course, a sober companion. Many of these services are as convenient as clicking on an app, and some are more affordable than a taxi. Some will even drive you and your car home.

There are just no more excuses to get behind the wheel when you’ve been drinking.

Get a FREE Case Evaluation from North Carolina Car Wreck Lawyers

If you do find yourself injured in an accident because of someone else’s negligence – whether during the holidays or any other time – contact an experienced car wreck lawyer – contact us now for a free case evaluation to see if we can help or call us at 1-866-900-7078.