Highest Death Toll Predicted on the Roads Over Thanksgiving Weekend in 10 Years

As Thanksgiving approaches, families are busy making travel plans, sourcing extra chairs and meal planning.

With millions of Americans on the road as they head home for the holidays, sadly this generally equates to numerous deaths over the festive break.

Every year, the National Safety Council (NSC) issues an estimate on how many people will die in car crashes between Wednesday evening, November 24, to Sunday evening, November 28, i.e. Thanksgiving weekend.

Stats show 2021 has the highest forecast in more than 10 years—515—with a "confidence interval" between 445 and 589.

It said: "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."

The NSC also noted that along with the numerous people traveling during the "4.25-day weekend consisting of Wednesday evening, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday," there was another factor at play.

"Holidays are also often cause for celebrations involving alcohol consumption, a major contributing factor to motor-vehicle crashes," the NSC added.

In 2020, the NSC estimated 485 people would die on the roads, with a "confidence interval" of 380 and 599.

While 2019, the last year the NSC collected actual data, saw 406 fatalities over the four-day period, compared with its estimate of 417.

In 2018, the NSC forecast accurately, with 433 estimated and actual deaths.

In 2007, the last year with a similarly high forecast as this year, 542 people died on the roads, slightly lower than the NSC estimate of 564.

Revealing more about how the NSC calculates statistics, the website noted: "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."

And it acknowledged the impact of COVID-19 was reflected in the figures, saying: "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.

"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."

File photo of a car crash.
File photo of a car crash. The NSC estimates 515 people will die on the roads over Thanksgiving weekend. GummyBone/Getty Images