Blog | Driving Insights

CMT Releases Best and Worst Times for Holiday Travel

December 11, 2019

Millions of Americans travel to spend the holidays with their friends and family – nearly 112.5 million are expected to hit the roads between the week before Christmas and the day after New Years.

CMT analyzed more than 8.3 million drives in the United States from Dec. 18, 2018 to Jan. 2, 2019 to uncover the best – and worst – times to travel by car during the holidays, and where drivers should be extra careful during their trips. Last year, Dec. 25 and Jan. 1 fell on Tuesday. This year, both days of celebration are on Wednesday, which is likely to retain a similar travel pattern.

Car trips averaged 7.3 instances of phone distraction per trip; when taking other dangerous road events like speeding, hard braking, sudden acceleration and too-fast turns into account, phone distraction still counted for more than 74 percent of dangerous driver actions on the road. The next most prevalent was speeding, at 18.7 percent.

Which day is the most dangerous day to drive? The answer might surprise you.

Last year, Thursday, Dec. 20 saw 65 distraction events per 100 miles, the most of any day in the stretch reviewed. Whether last minute shoppers were checking their lists twice or early getaway travelers were looking for directions, it was the most dangerous day to be on the roads.

The following day, Friday, Dec. 21 was the most congested day of travel. The least congested day for traveling ahead of Christmas was Sunday, Dec. 23; it was also the day that featured the least amount of distraction on the roads.

Christmas Day, Dec. 25, was the day with the fewest travelers in the two-week span, but those wide open roads led to drivers being most likely to speed on that day.

Throughout the entire holidays, the most dangerous time to travel is between noon and 5 p.m. The safest is after 8 p.m., through the early hours of the morning until 6 a.m.

Who’s the worse and who’s the best for distracted driving during the holidays?

For cities with a minimum of 10,000 trips, Miami led the country with more than 77 distractions per 100 miles, followed by Denver and Chicago at 73.5 and 70.9 distractions respectively. The least distracted drivers were found in Portland, Oregon, with 27.2 distractions per 100 miles, followed by Albany and Madison with 32.2 and 35.1 distractions respectively.

Here are the top 10 lists for most and least distracted, as well as the 10 cities with the most speeding over the holidays.

CMT uses phone sensors and our Bluetooth Tag device to gather data about speeding, acceleration, hard braking, cornering, and smartphone distraction. We analyze the raw data to produce best-in-class insights. For the purposes of this study, CMT analyzed data from 8,348,179 drives across 50 states from December 18, 2018 – January 2, 2019. Only the cities with a minimum of 10,000 trips were included in the analysis. From those trips, we extracted cities with risky driving behavior and analyzed the data by date, hour of day and location to uncover these findings.