Thanksgiving is the deadliest holiday of the year – not just for turkeys…

Not to be a total buzzkill after a joyous day of sharing thanks and gratitude, but it’s true that the mortality rate in the U.S. spikes on Thanksgiving day and remains higher through the end of the year. Part of the reasoning behind this comes from extreme weather and flu season, but part of it […]

Not to be a total buzzkill after a joyous day of sharing thanks and gratitude, but it’s true that the mortality rate in the U.S. spikes on Thanksgiving day and remains higher through the end of the year.

Part of the reasoning behind this comes from extreme weather and flu season, but part of it is directly correlated with the holiday, namely car accidents and more heart attacks.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration warns drivers to stay safe on Thanksgiving for good reason. According to the most recent data available from NHTSA’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System, there were 764 crashes involving a fatality during Thanksgiving 2012. (About 400 of them involved motorists.) In comparison, there were 654 crashes involving a fatality during Christmas that year. There were nearly 50,000 non-fatal car accidents that Thanksgiving holiday, too.

With this data, the disturbing thing is that a lot of these accidents are totally avoidable. According to NHTSA, at least 40% of passengers killed that Thanksgiving were involved in crashes with drunk drivers, and about 60% of passengers weren’t wearing their seat belts.

When it comes to heart health, there could many factors involved like eating more salt, consuming more alcohol, stress from traveling and being around your family, or even people forgetting to bring their medications when they travel. But it’s pretty clear that it isn’t primarily correlated with winter or cold weather:

Looking at death certificates in always-warm Los Angeles County, across the 1980s and 1990s, researchers saw that there were about 33% more deaths related to coronary disease in the winter than in the summer. That spike began, year after year, around Thanksgiving.

Be safe out there, people.

[Photo from flickr user Steve Voght]