Drivers Should Be Prepared for Heavy Christmas Traffic

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, and for many of us, that means hitting the road and driving to visit friends and family. Time Magazine reported that approximately 100 million Americans travel between December 23 and January 3, and a whopping 90% of those travelers travel by car. That means traffic-a lot of traffic, and all of over the span of only a couple of days! And when more cars are on the road, it means car collisions are more likely to happen.

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It should be noted that Christmas traffic patterns are much harder to predict than Thanksgiving traffic patterns. Thanksgiving falls on a Thursday every year, making traffic flow on the days leading up to and after the holiday, pretty predictable, since it’s the same day of the week each year. Christmas, on the other hand, falls on a different day each year, making traffic more difficult to forecast. When the holiday falls in relation to the weekend, as well as when schools start winter break, can vary year to year and will impact travel days and traffic patterns. That being said, Waze, a navigation app, has released travel data from years past to help forecast what traffic will be like this year.

Since Christmas falls on a Monday this year, it is likely that Friday, December 22nd, will be the worst travel day. Specifically, traffic will be the heaviest between 3 PM and 6 PM when people start leaving work, but roads will be more congested than usual starting as early as 11 AM. In years past, Christmas Eve has also been a pretty heavy travel day. However since Christmas Eve is a Sunday this year, it's likely that many people will begin their travel on Friday or Saturday, and Christmas Eve traffic won't be as heavy as it's been in years past. Like Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day is the best day to travel, as traffic is at its lightest, and mimics weekend traffic patterns. Regardless of when your holiday travel plans are, it's important to be alert, as traffic flow probably won't be the same as it is on a normal day.

Waze’s data in regard to what destinations people are searching for on Christmas Eve likely won’t come as much of a surprise. Places of worship were by far the most searched for destination, seeing a 148% increase in searches. Before they go to church though, drivers appear to be running some last minute errands or trying to catch a flight. Grocery stores, restaurants, shopping areas, and airports all saw increases in number of searches as well, with most people making their drives between 10 AM and 4 PM. If you can, try and complete any urgent or last minute errands before Christmas Eve, and save yourself from a potential highway standstill!

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When it comes to returning home after Santa has made his visit, traffic is more spread out over a few days. Historically, December 27th has been the worst day in terms of return traffic. But since Christmas falls on a Monday this year, drivers' return trips will largely depend on what day of the week they need to be back at work. This means that there will likely be more variation as to what days people are heading home. Based on data from 2016, waiting to return home until the 28th, as opposed o the 27th, resulted in lighter traffic.

Sitting in traffic may not bring much holiday cheer, but it is an unavoidable part of traveling over the holidays. If you can plan your travel to avoid the most congested times, you may be able to avoid the worst of the gridlock. Also by avoiding traffic, you may be able to avoid expressing and being on the receiving end of aggressive driving behaviors. Road rage car accidents are often prevalent during rush hour, and are like to be worse at a time when millions of people are running late to Christmas dinner. 

If you do find yourself traveling at one of the more popular travel times, know that your drive to Grandma and Grandpa's house is probably going to take longer than usual. Allow yourself extra time to get where you need to be, and let friends and family know that traffic may make you a little late. No one likes sitting in traffic, but it's a part of the deal when it comes to holiday travel, and no holiday can be happy when a loved one has been injured in a car accident.


Heavier traffic which can lead to road rage and aggressive driving, combined with winter weather conditions, means that there may be many car crashes this holiday season. If you or a loved one become injured in a car crash due to aggressive driving, distracted driving, road rage, or winter weather, call The Michigan Law Firm, PLLC at 844.4MI.FIRM for a free legal consultation with an experienced accident attorney.