Skip to main content

As of 2016, there were 268,799,080 cars registered in the United States – that’s a lot of collective hours clocked on the road. While the average driver may be able to nervously laugh off a minor fender bender, tens of thousands of American motorists each year do not share that same luck.

Depending on the time of day, month, and location, different people are exposed to varying levels of risk during their commute. We decided to map accidents across America and visualize the sobering road fatality statistics that affect us all.

Deadliest times to drive

Saturday is beloved for its association with relaxation, letting loose, and socializing – with a potentially commitment-free Sunday to follow, it is easy to see why. However, Saturdays in 2016 had a much darker side to them than revelers may have realized: It was the deadliest day of the week for drivers. Saturdays claimed 6,802 lives, with Fridays quite a ways behind at 5,826 road deaths. Unfortunately, it is not entirely surprising that the most and second-most perilous positions are claimed by the two days of the week that hold the promise of not working the following day.

It seems as though drivers become more reckless as their sense of personal freedom increases. For example, data collected in Connecticut between October 2013 and September 2014 showed commuters racked up the most tickets before, on, or directly after various holidays: The Friday before Labor Day took first place, followed by the Friday before Memorial Day and the day after Patriot Day (also a Friday).

The deadliest time of the day was in the late afternoon transitioning into the evening, with the two most fatal slots occurring back to back: 6,201 accidents occurred between 4 p.m. and 6:59 p.m., followed by 6,067 between 7 p.m. and 9:59 p.m. These times align perfectly with what is considered to be the after-work rush hour, which would indicate a higher number of cars on the road and, therefore, a higher likelihood of a crash. However, morning rush hour did not yield the same fatality rate: 7 a.m. to 9:59 a.m. had the fewest number of deadly accidents – 3,345.

Fatalities by the hour

This graph helps us further dissect the number of fatalities per week based on the exact hour. The negative effects of Saturday, being the deadliest day for road users, actually ended up bleeding into Sunday’s early hours. Sundays, between 1 a.m. and 3:59 a.m., yielded a similar number of deaths as the most dangerous time block of the entire week (10 p.m. to 12:59 a.m. on Saturday), and was even more dangerous than the same chunk of time on Saturday mornings: 1,076 crash-related deaths versus 1,061, respectively. During the week, however, the 1 a.m. to 3:59 a.m. slot was among the least deadly of all, likely because most people were safe in their beds.

The safest time to be on the road in 2016 was Tuesday between 1 a.m. and 3:59 a.m., during which time only 311 fatalities were reported for the entire year. In fact, Tuesday was the safest day of the week overall, while following the same trend as every other day of the week: Driving deaths peaked at the previously established deadliest time of day (between 4 p.m. and 6:59 p.m.). If you’re looking to stay safe on the road and avoid other dangerous behaviors that drivers tend to adopt, Tuesday is likely your best bet.

Crash fatalities mapped

Residents of every country, state, and city joke they have the worst drivers in the world. While it’s true some American citizens experience more regular fender benders than others, deadly road accidents can happen everywhere at any time.

Deadliest states for car accidents

Certain states make a disproportionate number of appearances on this graph, no matter the day of the week: Mississippi was among the top five deadliest states on all seven days, while Alabama was represented six days of the week. The absolute highest incidence of fatal accidents occurred on Saturday in Mississippi, accounting for 4.3 crash fatalities per 100,000 residents, followed closely by Montana at 4.2. In fact, Saturday’s fatalities were so high every other day’s highest listed figure couldn’t even break into Saturday’s top five – the only exception being Thursdays in Wyoming at 4.1 crash fatalities.

Meanwhile, on days that had generally fewer road accidents, the safest states regularly clocked in below one fatality per 100,000 residents: On Mondays, New York, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts were tied for the safest state at 0.6. On Fridays, Rhode Island represented the lowest number of the entire data set at 0.4.

Mapping the deadliest hours to drive

It has already been established that 4 p.m. to 6:59 p.m. is the deadliest time of day overall – but which states bear the brunt of those fatal hours? When 4 p.m. hit, Wisconsin and New Mexico experienced the highest rate of road fatalities in the country, with 1.7 crash fatalities per 100,000 residents. One hour later, at 5 p.m., they were replaced by Minnesota with 1.6 fatalities, and South Carolina and Arkansas at 1.5. Finally, at 6 p.m., the numbers began to slip across the board, and Montana experienced the highest volume of deadly accidents at 1.3 crash fatalities per 100,000 residents.

Drive responsibly

What they tell you in driving school is true. Operating a motor vehicle is a huge responsibility, and doing so recklessly can be met with grave consequences – not only for you but also for those with whom you share the road. Don’t put your foot on the gas until you know who to call in case of an emergency: Avvo makes getting legal help easy, simple, and straightforward, so you can feel protected with every turn and lane change you make.

Methodology

We analyzed data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) for 2016 to see how many crash-related fatalities happened across the country, by state, weekday, and time of day. Fatality data include drivers and non drivers such as pedestrians and bicyclists involved in the crash. In certain visualizations regarding the day of the week or the time of day, we excluded the “unknown” as we only wanted to present crashes with distinct times or days associated. In order to work with the number of fatalities truly represented in the data and to take into consideration that individual crashes had varying numbers of fatalities, we created an identification string that isolated the number of fatalities using case numbers by state and an average number of fatalities, which gave us a total number of fatalities and state-by-state numbers of fatalities per 100k residents that matched the FARS values.

Fair Use Statement

Sharing is caring, especially because crash-related fatalities happen at every hour across the country. Feel free to link our study to your friends and family for noncommercial purposes, but be sure to credit us for our work.