Holiday Travel: Are Planes, Trains, or Cars the Safest Way to Travel?

November 30, 2015 by

When people think of taking a trip during the holidays, many of them imagine suffering through crowded lines to check their bags or go through security, missing flights because of long delays, or even getting stranded at the airport. But with the rising price of airfare (and the lower price of gasoline), the simple truth is that the overwhelming majority of long-distance holiday travel takes place in people’s personal vehicles—like cars, trucks, and even motorcycles.

According to the United States Department of Transportation, 91% of long-distance holiday travel is done in personal vehicles. Unfortunately, there are also more vehicles on the road during the holidays as well. In the days surrounding Thanksgiving, the number of long-distance trips increases by 54%, and in the days surrounding Christmas and New Year’s, the number of long-distance trips increases by 23%.

But are personal vehicles the safest way to travel during the holidays? The simple answer is “no.” In fact, personal vehicles are, by far, the most dangerous way to travel. Below, we’ve outlined (from most dangerous to least dangerous) how different types of transportation stack up.


While motorcycles tend to get excellent gas mileage (and are simply a lot of fun to ride), they are also the most dangerous form of transportation. Between 2008 and 2013, over 23,000 people were killed on motorcycles. Crunching the numbers, motorcyclists experience 217 deaths per billion miles traveled.

Cars, Trucks, and SUVs

Most of us don’t own a motorcycle; in fact, for every motorcycle on the road, there are almost 7 passenger vehicles. Unfortunately, cars, trucks, and SUVs are also a relatively dangerous way to travel. Over the same 5-year period, there were over 113,000 people killed in passenger vehicles, and the statistics aren’t great for cars, trucks, and SUVs with 5.75 deaths per billion miles traveled.


While trains have gone in and out of fashion as a primary means of travel over the years, they are, in fact, much safer than driving. In the 5 years before 2013, only approximately 125 deaths occurred on trains. With only .47 deaths per billion miles traveled, trains are over 12 times safer than passenger vehicles for travel.


Although plane crashes are featured prominently in the news when they do occur, planes are far and away the safest way to travel. From 2008 to 2013, commercial airlines had a fatality rate of only .06 deaths per billion miles traveled; that’s almost 100 times safer than driving a passenger vehicle. To put those numbers in perspective, a person would have to travel from Dallas to New Orleans and back every day for 2,740 years before they traveled a billion miles.

Of course, not everyone can afford to travel by plane, which is why so much long-distance travel, especially around the holidays, is undertaken in people’s personal vehicles. And the higher volume of people on the road, the longer trips that those people are taking, inclement weather, less daylight hours, alcohol consumption, fatigue, and a host of other factors around the holidays all contribute to Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s being among the most dangerous holidays to travel on each year.

Unfortunately, many of the people injured or killed while driving during the holiday season are not at fault for those injuries or deaths. In fact, between 40 and 50 percent of vehicle fatalities over the holidays are alcohol-related. While we certainly hope that everyone has a safe and enjoyable holiday season, if the worst should happen and you or someone you know becomes injured or loses a loved one because of someone else’s poor decisions, you deserve to get justice and compensation to help recover. Call Hossley & Embry today at (866) 522-9265 for a free consultation so you can get professional, trustworthy advice about your best course of action.


Bureau of Transportation Statistics. (2003). U.S. holiday travel. United States Department of Transportation. Retrieved from

CNN Money. (2015, May 13). What’s the safest way to travel? CNN Money. Retrieved from

Elliot, H. (2009, November 20). Full list: Most dangerous U.S. holidays. Forbes. Retrieved from

Categories: Driving Safety