More drivers are on the road during the holiday seasons with added weather concerns. How can you keep your fleet drivers safe?  -  Photo: Work Truck | Samsara

More drivers are on the road during the holiday seasons with added weather concerns. How can you keep your fleet drivers safe?

Photo: Work Truck | Samsara

Did you know that nearly half the country plans to travel between Thanksgiving and the middle of January, according to the 2023 Deloitte Holiday Travel Survey? 

Professional drivers work through the busy end-of-year holiday season and see more vehicles. Add to this winter weather hazards such as snow, rain, and ice, and “drive safely” takes on a whole new meaning. 

Samsara Data Science and Analytics team took a closer look at the driving behaviors of tens of thousands of organizations in 2022 and 2023.

Interesting fact: Risky driving behaviors often don’t peak during holiday weeks. Instead, these issues are more common in the weeks leading up to and following holidays. 

Study highlights include: 

  • Spikes in harsh braking across the country: Sudden, hard braking - or harsh braking - is highly associated with crashes. The top 10 States with the most harsh braking events per distance: NJ, DE, NY, MA, KY, CA, UT, HI, FL, MD
  • Northeast tops charts for speeding: The top 10 States with the Highest Level of Speeding Per Trip: CT, NH, DE, MD, RI, HI, PA, VA, NJ, MA
  • Consider the clock: Contrary to what you might think, trips where speeding occurs are more likely to start mid-morning, (9:00 am to 11:00 am), while they are least likely to start late at night (10:00 pm to 1:00 am) when roads are more open and less congested.
  • The holiday week isn’t the peak: Rather, risky driving behaviors like harsh braking and speeding are more common in the weeks leading up to and following. This is true for many holidays throughout the year – consider Independence Day, speeding was 15% higher the week before the holiday this year. 

Check out more of what Samsara discovered about holidays and driving throughout the year.

Holiday Driving Trends: Harsh Braking Common Around Thanksgiving, Speeding is Highest in the Northeast

The top 10 States with the most harsh braking events per distance were NJ, DE, NY, MA, KY, CA, UT, HI, FL, and MD.  -  Photo: Samsara

The top 10 States with the most harsh braking events per distance were NJ, DE, NY, MA, KY, CA, UT, HI, FL, and MD.

Photo: Samsara

Road safety is always a concern, but it is especially important during the holiday season. According to recent studies, harsh braking is one of the most significant predictors of on-the-road accidents for commercial drivers.

Samsara data shows that the week before Thanksgiving, harsh braking was 22% higher compared to the week of the holiday. Similarly, the week after Thanksgiving, harsh braking was 13% higher compared to Thanksgiving week. Additionally, Samsara data identified the top 10 states where drivers experience the most harsh braking during November and December 2022.

The top 10 States with the Highest Level of Speeding Per Trip: CT, NH, DE, MD, RI, HI, PA, VA, NJ, and MA.  -  Photo: Samsara

The top 10 States with the Highest Level of Speeding Per Trip: CT, NH, DE, MD, RI, HI, PA, VA, NJ, and MA.

Photo: Samsara

Speeding is another traffic violation that can lead to accidents. Samsara data found that incidents of speeding were 21% higher the week before Thanksgiving and 22% higher the week after compared to Thanksgiving week. Interestingly, speeding incidents were more common in the Northeast, including states like Connecticut, New Hampshire, Delaware, and Maryland. Samsara data also revealed that the time of day when drivers are more likely to speed is between 9:00 am to 11:00 am, while they are least likely to speed between 10:00 pm to 1:00 am.

These results indicate that drivers tend to speed when there are more cars on the road. This trend is concerning since traffic volume is typically higher during the holidays. In 2022, trip volume was 37% higher the week before Thanksgiving compared to Thanksgiving week. This increase in traffic volume is a major risk factor for road accidents, as traffic congestion is a contributing factor to aggressive driving behaviors.

Overall, harsh braking, speeding, and traffic volume are highly correlated and may lead to road accidents. As we approach the winter holiday season, it is important to take extra precautions on the road and practice safe driving habits.

Risks Increase Around Many Major Holidays

During major holidays, the risks of unsafe driving behaviors like speeding and harsh braking increase. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that there are generally more motor vehicle traffic crash fatalities during holiday periods compared to non-holiday periods.

Although there are busier and less busy times during every holiday, data shows that speeding incidents were 9% higher the week before Independence Day in 2022 and 15% higher the week before in 2023. Similarly, incidents were 10% higher the week after Independence Day in 2022 and 14% higher the week after in 2023. These fluctuations suggest that commercial drivers may be shifting their activity away from holiday weeks to those before and after holidays. However, in doing so, they may end up with more trips during weeks that have relatively higher speeding and harsh braking rates.

It's important to note that higher levels of speeding and harsh braking incidents are consistent from year-to-year around holiday time periods.

3 Tips for Safe Holiday Driving (All Year Long)

It’s not just the professionals who have a responsibility to help increase safety on the road. Regular drivers often find themselves driving more during busy holiday periods. Here are three tips we rounded up from professional drivers with decades of experience and exceptional safety records to help everyone drive more safely:

  1. Watch out for distracted driving: Ina Daly, a driver with XPO who has 40 years of experience, says: “You can tell a distracted driver by their fluctuating speed... They’re drifting in their lane. Their head is looking down instead of focusing on the road. You want to give those people a wide berth.”
  2. Add extra time to your driving itinerary: Daly also points out the importance of not adding to the holiday rush by giving yourself more time to get where you’re going. She says: “You don’t want that stressful drive. You’re hurrying. That lends to bad driving behaviors like tailgating and speeding, which leads to accidents. Don’t put yourself in that situation.”
  3. Remember to respect trucks and other non-passenger vehicles: Robert Chidester, a driver for RelaDyne with 45 years of experience and a Samsara Top Driver award winner, notes that not all vehicles behave the same way. He says: “Some people think driving a truck is exactly like driving a car, but it’s not. It doesn’t stop like a car, it doesn’t go around corners like a car, and it can’t go uphill like a car. Some people on the road get really frustrated with trucks, but I think they just don’t understand how a truck needs to operate and drive on the road. Just give us some patience and remember that we’re driving the way a truck needs to be driven safely.”
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Our team of enterprising editors brings years of experience covering the fleet industry. We offer a deep understanding of trends and the ever-evolving landscapes we cover in fleet, trucking, and transportation.  

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