Thanksgiving driving patterns increase risk for fatal crashes

November 19th, 2012 in Technology / Engineering

(Phys.org)—Thanksgiving often means more food for Americans, but it also means more traffic on the road that brings a greater chance for fatal crashes, according to a recent study of traffic data by The University of Alabama Center for Advanced Public Safety.

Analyzing Alabama and national fatal crash data during Thanksgiving week, defined as the Monday before Thanksgiving through the Sunday after it, researchers at the center, known as CAPS, found speeding, driving under the influence of alcohol, time of day and weather all contributed to more in Alabama and the United States. They are common factors in fatal crashes throughout the year, except exaggerated by the activity of Thanksgiving week.

There are more parties, more vehicles on the road at night, more drivers on less-familiar roads, more tired drivers behind the wheel and more distracted drivers.

"With substantially increased traffic volume over a short period, this combination is a recipe for potential disaster," said Dr. Allen Parrish, CAPS director and professor of computer science at The University of Alabama.

The study was based primarily on 2011 traffic data from Alabama, but it also compared these results against the most recent data from the , or FARS, maintained by the . The FARS data covered the six years from 2005-2010. The Alabama data considered all reported crashes within Alabama, while the FARS data contains all fatal crashes nationally.

The research was done through UA-developed data-analysis software called Critical Analysis Reporting Environment, or CARE, used by researchers at CAPS.

"CARE enabled us to easily compare Thanksgiving week with every other week of the year and look at every attribute in the crash records, both in the Alabama and the FARS databases." Parrish said.

Nationally, there was an average 748 fatalities per week during the six-year study, yet Thanksgiving week averaged 50 more fatalities, indicating that this is a relatively more dangerous time to be on the road, according to the FARS data. In Alabama, about 16 fatal crashes occurred in an average week in 2011, but during Thanksgiving there were 17 fatal crashes, according to .

The CAPS study is intended to determine the reasons for this increase, as well as other correlating factors. They include:

Parrish said there are tips to greatly increase the chances of a safe and enjoyable Thanksgiving holiday:
The www.SafeHomeAlabama.gov website provides a comprehensive view of all known organized traffic safety efforts in the state of Alabama.

UA's Center for Advanced Public Safety used its own CARE software to analyze the data to obtain the statistics for this article. Try CARE online analysis at http://caps.ua.edu/online_analysis.aspx. Researchers at CAPS routinely provide a variety of safety studies and planning documents, such as Crash Facts Books and Highway Safety Plans.

Provided by University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa

"Thanksgiving driving patterns increase risk for fatal crashes." November 19th, 2012. http://phys.org/news/2012-11-thanksgiving-patterns-fatal.html