The study, published by professor David Brown at the university’s Center for Advanced Public Safety, found that more accidents happen during the week leading up to Christmas than occur around Thanksgiving or New Year’s Day.
The study used 10 years worth of traffic data collected from across the state by the Center for Advanced Public Safety, looking at the six-day periods leading up to Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. In 2012, 1,996 crashes were recorded in Alabama the week before Christmas, including 10 fatal wrecks. The week leading up to Thanksgiving saw just 1,698 crashes and only 1,552 the week between Christmas and New Year’s.
“I think people are traveling earlier and earlier,” Brown said about the move away from people using the Wednesday before Thanksgiving to hit the roads. “Thanksgiving has sort of become less important.”
Brown said the study suggests several reasons for the dangerous road conditions, with the biggest impact being typical Friday commuter driving combined with driving for holiday shopping and travel.
“If Christmas is early in the week, the Friday before you have a lot of people out shopping alongside people commuting,” Brown said. “Typically commuting traffic is used to other commuting traffic, it’s the other drivers that kind of throw that off.”
Or put more simply, Brown said, the more cars on the road, the more chances for an accident.
Despite 10 years of data, Brown said he didn’t have any research for what happens when Christmas or New Year’s Day falls on a Wednesday, as it will this year. That’s also been the challenge in comparing those holidays to Thanksgiving, which falls on the same day of the week every year.
“It fluctuates,” Brown said. “Typically, earlier in the week Christmas falls, the more dangerous that weekend becomes.”
At least in the South, drivers typically don’t normally have to worry about inclement weather, which makes winter travel dangerous in other areas of the country. And this year appears to be no different. According to the National Weather Service in Calera, the week of Christmas is expected to be dry with no ice or snow on the roads.
And if drivers really want to be safe, Brown said, try traveling on Christmas Day.
“Nobody’s out,” Brown said. “That’s the best time to hit the road.”
Staff Writer Brian Anderson: 256-235-3546. On Twitter @BAnderson_Star.