The deadliest holiday for car accidents

Drivers and passengers, beware: You are four times as likely to die in a traffic accident over the Memorial Day weekend as over a regular weekend, according to ValuePenguin.

In assessing driving risks, the personal finance website compared traffic fatalities over all the major holidays using statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Memorial Day led with an average of 312 fatal accidents per year over the period 2011 to 2015. The other big summer holidays were not far behind, however. Labor Day averaged 308 fatalities and the Fourth of July, 307.

The clear takeaway: Driving on any of the big summer weekend holidays is much more dangerous than on a normal weekend. The most dangerous single day -- rather than weekend -- is July 4, perhaps because many families are driving at night to and from fireworks displays.

More and more travelers on the road add to those dangers. AAA forecasts that 39.3 million Americans will travel more than 50 miles over this year's Memorial Day weekend, the most 2005, reflecting the ongoing economic recovery. Of that number, an estimated 34.6 million, or 88 percent, will be driving.

"The expected spike in Memorial Day traffic mirrors the positive growth seen throughout the travel industry this year," said AAA senior vice president Bill Sutherland. "Higher confidence has led to more consumer spending. Many Americans are choosing to allocate their extra money on travel this Memorial Day."

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Irina Ivanova/CBS MoneyWatch

Other highlights of Value Penguin's study:

  • Surprisingly, New Year's weekend was the second-least dangerous holiday, with an average of 245 fatal accidents per year between 2011 and 2015. It may be that years of public service announcements have convinced party-goers not to drink and drive. Christmas had the lowest level of fatalities at 231.
  • As on normal weekends, the stretch of the Northeast between Washington, D.C., and New York had a high incidence of fatal accidents on most holiday weekends.
  • Texas and California shared in the carnage. The dubious distinction of being the deadliest city on individual holiday weekends was split between Houston and Los Angeles.

Knowing these dangers probably will not deter you from driving to your holiday celebrations. But keep in mind today's No. 1 safety tip: Texting or other distracted driving is more dangerous than driving drunk. If you need to tell your relatives you are running late, pull over. 

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    Jerry Edgerton, author of Car Shopping Made Easy, has been covering the car beat since Detroit companies dominated the U.S. market. The former car columnist for Money magazine and Washington correspondent for Business Week, Edgerton specializes in finding the best deals on wheels and offering advice on making your car last.