Are roads deadly during the Super Bowl? (Case Study 2018)

Are roads deadly during the Super Bowl? There is an 11% increase in fatal crashes on Super Bowl Sunday, mostly affecting the game's host state.

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Zaneta Wood, Ed.S. has over 15 years of experience in research and technical writing bringing a keen understanding of data analysis and information synthesis to reach a wide variety of audiences. She studied adult education and instructional technology at Appalachian State University as well as technical and professional communication at East Carolina University. Zaneta has prepared technical p...

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Joel Ohman is the CEO of a private equity backed digital media company. He is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, author, angel investor, and serial entrepreneur who loves creating new things, whether books or businesses. He has also previously served as the founder and resident CFP® of a national insurance agency, Real Time Health Quotes. He has an MBA from the University of South Florida. Jo...

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Reviewed by Joel Ohman
Founder & CFP®

UPDATED: Sep 15, 2020

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Here's what you need to know...

  • On Super Bowl day, the hosting state has an 11.8 percent increase in fatal crashes
  • In the past seven years, the most deadly crashes occurred on Super Bowl XLV
  • The day before the Super Bowl has the highest increase in deadly traffic accidents
  • Since 2010, only two Super Bowls had zero fatal crashes in either of the team’s states
  • The losing state has a 63.6 percent higher fatal crash rate than the winning state
  • Out of those involved, the most fatal crashes occurred in the Super Bowl hosting state

Since the late 19th century, football has quickly become the most popular sport in the United States.

Today, the National Football League (NFL) has the highest average attendance of any professional sports league in the world.

More people watched the 2017 Super Bowl than any other program in U.S. television history — a record-breaking 172 million viewers.

It’s no surprise that the NFL rakes in more revenue than any other sports league. In 2016, the NFL made over $13 billion, and the league is on track to make the annual $25 billion by 2027.

Did you know? This highly anticipated, most-watched sporting event in the world was named after a toy. The name “Super Bowl” came from the Super Ball, one of the most popular children’s toys in the mid-1960s.

Unlike its name origin may imply, the Super Bowl is far from child’s play.

In addition to the injuries on the field each season and deaths from CTE, many die on the roads before, after, and during this beloved event.

Read on to discover the powerful effect this one game has on American roads. You’re just in time with Super Bowl 52 fast-approaching on Sunday, February 4, 2018.

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  • This article is a result of an in-depth study of seven years of NHTSA fatal crash reports.
  • Our team of analysts compiled nearly 25,000 data points of deadly accidents that occurred on the roads in the home and away states during the Super Bowl.
  • To allow for the study of the complete trend for 2010-2016, our intricate data includes the days just before and after each Super Bowl and a fatal crash annual average for the rest of the year.
  • The first four facts below include the best and worst game days for fatal crashes in America for the winning and losing teams’ home states.
  • The remaining six facts are correlated from the 25,000 data points we analyzed.

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10 Facts about Fatal Car Accidents During the Super Bowl

We’ve gone to great lengths to provide you with the latest traffic safety information. This study is the first to shine a light on the road dangers surrounding the Super Bowl.

Unfortunately, we have more to worry about than the players getting injured on the field. The Super Bowl means an increase in alcohol consumption, road rage, traffic, and fatal crashes.

#1 – The Super Bowl with the MOST Fatal Crashes: Winning State

Game and Year: Super Bowl XLIV (2010)
Winning Team: New Orleans Saints
Fatal Crashes in Home State: 2
The difference from Daily Average: +13.35 percent

The first time the Saints ever made it to the Super Bowl, they won!

With a final score of 31 to 17, the Colts’ head coach, Tony Dungy, was correct when he said:

“I don’t think it’s going to be close.”

Only one little part of his prediction was wrong . . . which team would win.

Louisiana’s major win at the Hard Rock Stadium was coupled with a major loss on its public roads with a 13.35 percent increase in fatal car crashes that day.

#2 – The Super Bowl with the MOST Fatal Crashes: Losing State

Game and Year: Super Bowl XLVII (2013)
Losing Team: San Francisco 49ers
Fatal Crashes in Home State: 9
The difference from Daily Average: +14.86 percent

Everyone knew one thing going into the 47th Super Bowl, that a Harbough coach would earn a world championship title as two brothers, Jim (49ers’ coach) and John (Ravens’ coach) faced off that night.

After a 34-minute game delay due to a strange power outage, the 49ers came back 22 points and nearly won with the greatest comeback in NFL history, but with a final score of 34 to 31, the Ravens earned their second Super Bowl title.

Sadly it wasn’t just the Super Bowl California lost that day. The suffering intensified due to a 14.86 percent spike in fatal crashes compared to its statewide daily average.

#3 – The Super Bowl with the LEAST Fatal Crashes: Winning State

Game and Year (Tie): Super Bowl XLV (’11) and Super Bowl XLVII (’13)
Winning Teams: Green Bay Packers (’11) and Baltimore Ravens (’13)
Fatal Crashes in the Home States: 0
The difference from Daily Average: -100 percent

The Packers beat the Steelers by six points in the 2011 Super Bowl, which meant Green Bay’s fifth Super Bowl win, but the first title in 14 years.

And, even though it seemed the 49ers were going to win their sixth title after a huge comeback, the Ravens earned their second title as world champs in 2013.

Lives saved trumps points scored.

Green Bay and Baltimore may have scored major victories in football on those days, but in our eyes, they achieved even greater victories on the roads:

  • Wisconsin: Feb 6, 2011 – ZERO fatal crashes
  • Maryland: Feb 3, 2013 – ZERO fatal crashes

#4 – The Super Bowl with the LEAST Fatal Crashes: Losing State

Game and Year (Tie): Super Bowl XLIV (’10), Super Bowl XLVIII (’14), and Super Bowl XLIX (’15)
Losing Teams: Indianapolis Colts (’10), Denver Broncos (’14), and Seattle Seahawks (’15)
Fatal Crashes in Home States: 1
Difference from Daily Average: -47.93 (’10), -19.07 (’14), and -26.85 (’15)

Interestingly enough, the Super Bowl with the most fatal crashes for the winning team’s state (as discussed in #1), was also the Super Bowl with the least fatal crashes for the losing team’s home state: Super Bowl XLIV of 2010.

The next Super Bowl tied for the least fatal crashes in the losing team’s state was in 2014 when the Seahawks slaughtered the Broncos. With a final score of 43-8, Super Bowl XLVIII was what Sports Illustrated called:

“The biggest Super Bowl blowout in 21 years.”

As for the third Super Bowl in this tie, XLIX, the Patriots came back 10 points (beating the Seahawks by only four) to earn the fourth World Championship title for Tom Brady and Bill Belichick.

The Colts, Broncos, and Seahawks may have lost the biggest game of the season, but their home states all had major victories with only one fatal crash that entire day. And, each state had a significant decrease in deadly crashes from their typical daily average:

  • Indiana: Feb 7, 2010 – down 47.93 percent
  • Colorado: Feb 2, 2014 – down 19.07 percent
  • Washington: Feb 1, 2015 – down 26.85 percent

#5 – The Roads During the Super Bowl

Do more fatal crashes occur during the Super Bowl? Yes.

On average over the past seven Super Bowls, both the losing team’s state and the hosting state experienced increases in fatal crashes.

  • Losing Team’s Stateup 13.3 percent
  • Winning Team’s Stateup 11.8 percent

Here are all the times (since 2010) a state had an increase in fatal car crashes on a Super Bowl day:

  • Winning Team’s Home State:
    • Louisiana: Feb 7, 2010 – up 13.35 percent
    • Massachusetts: Feb 1, 2015 – up 11.28 percent
  • Losing Team’s Home State:
    • Pennsylvania: Feb 6, 2011 – up 22.59 percent
    • Massachusetts: Feb 5, 2012 – up 100.55 percent
    • California: Feb 3, 2013 – up 14.86 percent
    • North Carolina: Feb 7, 2016 – up 35.76 percent
  • Game Hosting State:
    • Texas: Feb 6, 2011 – up 70.07 percent
    • Louisiana: Feb 3, 2013up 68.20 percent
    • New Jersey: Feb 2, 2014 – up 39.58 percent
    • California: Feb 7, 2016 – up 9.03 percent

Super Bowl XLV, XLVII, and L (’11, ’13, and ’16) meant a deadly day for drivers in both the losing team’s home state and the state hosting the big game. 

People in the state hosting the Super Bowl are at a high risk of getting killed on the road with over 68 percent increases in fatal collisions on game day.

The greatest increase in the past seven years occurred when the Patriots lost the Super Bowl on February 5, 2012. The losing team’s home state, Massachusetts, experienced a massive 100.55 percent increase in deadly car crashes that day!

# 6 – The MOST Deadly Super Bowl

This seven-year study clearly illustrates that some Super Bowls are much more deadly than others.

The most deadly Super Bowl for American roadways occurred on Sunday, February 6, 2011.

On this day, the Steelers lost the Super Bowl, and their home state, Pennsylvania, had a shocking 148.78 percent increase in fatal crashes compared to the U.S. fatal crash average for that same day.

And, just when you thought that sounded bad, the hosting state, Texas, experienced an unbelievable 708.54 percent increase compared to the nation’s average for that day.

With game day emotions and increased alcohol consumption, 17 traffic fatal crashes occurred the day of Super Bowl XLV in just the losing team’s state and hosting states alone.

# 7 – The LEAST Deadly Super Bowl

Thankfully not all Super Bowls have caused a huge jump in deadly car crashes for the involved states.

The Super Bowl played on the first day of February in 2015 has been (by far) the least deadly Super Bowl day for American roads since before 2010.

The Patriots beat the Seahawks by four points in Super Bowl XLIX at the University of Phoenix Stadium. Both the winning and losing teams’ home states only had one fatal car crash that day, and the hosting state had absolutely none!

All three states involved in the 2015 Super Bowl had a decrease in fatal crashes that day, with a total of only two traffic deaths. That’s still two too many, but it’s far better than the 17 people killed only four Super Bowls prior. 

#8 – Fatal Crash Rates During the Super Bowl

Here are the percent differences for crashes resulting in deaths for the involved states compared to that state’s fatal crash annual average:

  • Winning Team’s Home State:
    • Day Before the Super Bowl – down 45.4 percent
    • Super Bowl Game Day – down 45.4 percent
    • Day After the Super Bowl – down 18.2 percent
  • Losing Team’s Home State:
    • Day Before the Super Bowlup 18.2 percent
    • Super Bowl Game Dayup 13.3 percent
    • Day After the Super Bowl – down 21.2 percent
  • Game Hosting State:
    • Day Before the Super Bowlup 44.7 percent
    • Super Bowl Game Dayup 11.8 percent
    • Day After the Super Bowl – down 21.1 percent

On average since 2010, the Super Bowl-winning team’s home state experienced a drop in fatal car crashes while the losing team’s home state and the state hosting the big game both experienced significant increases in deadly car crashes.

#9 – Fatal Crash Trends During the Super Bowl

When looking at all the fatal car crash data for the past seven Super Bowls as a whole, we were able to arrive at some eye-opening conclusions.

The safest day to drive on or around the Super Bowl is . . . when it’s all over.

The day after the Super Bowl is the only day that all of the involved states had decreases in fatal car crashes — over 18 percent drops across the board.

Our extensive data proves the Super Bowl creates the greatest risks for those driving in the state hosting the big game.

Surprisingly though, game day itself isn’t the most dangerous.

The day before the Super Bowl is when we see the biggest jump in fatal crashes. On average over the past seven years, the hosting state experienced a drastic 44.7 percent increase in fatal car crashes the day before the Super Bowl.

#10 – Safety During the Super Bowl

You don’t have to be a fan of football to be affected by the biggest event in the professional league.

We aren’t just warning you of some heavy traffic. We are warning you of when you’re at a higher risk of being killed or losing a loved one. 

The researchers at Virginia Tech’s Transportation Institute found that driving while fueled by sadness, anger, or agitation puts you at about 10 times a greater risk of getting in a car crash.

Their study on what has been coined “Emotional Driving” helps to explain why the losing team’s home state is such a dangerous place to drive during the Super Bowl.

Follow the eight links below for advice on how to stay safe during the Super Bowl this year:

Whether you are football’s biggest fan or you couldn’t care less, be a fan of saving lives this Super Bowl . . . and all year long!

Remember, what’s much more important than which team wins is that you and your loved ones are alive to enjoy fun things like football and wings!

Complete Rankings: Fatal Crashes During the Super Bowl

– To sort the table by category, click on header columns.

– Click here for the full stats and sources for each category. For all media inquiries, please email: Josh Barnes

01/31/2010Day BeforeNew Orleans SaintsWinnerLouisiana21.7613.352.41
01/31/2010Day AfterNew Orleans SaintsWinnerLouisiana21.7613.352.41
01/31/2010Super Bowl XLIVNew Orleans SaintsWinnerLouisiana21.7613.352.41
01/31/2010Day BeforeIndianapolis ColtsLoserIndiana01.92-100.000.00
01/31/2010Day AfterIndianapolis ColtsLoserIndiana01.92-100.000.00
01/31/2010Super Bowl XLIVIndianapolis ColtsLoserIndiana11.92-47.931.20
01/31/2010Day BeforeSun Life StadiumHostFlorida116.1977.5813.25
01/31/2010Day AfterSun Life StadiumHostFlorida46.19-35.434.82
01/31/2010Super Bowl XLIVSun Life StadiumHostFlorida56.19-19.286.02
02/05/2011Day BeforeGreen Bay PackersWinnerWisconsin11.46-31.391.22
02/05/2011Day AfterGreen Bay PackersWinnerWisconsin11.46-31.391.22
02/05/2011Super Bowl XLVGreen Bay PackersWinnerWisconsin01.46-100.000.00
02/05/2011Day BeforePittsburgh SteelersLoserPennsylvania103.26206.4712.22
02/05/2011Day AfterPittsburgh SteelersLoserPennsylvania23.26-38.712.44
02/05/2011Super Bowl XLVPittsburgh SteelersLoserPennsylvania43.2622.594.89
02/05/2011Day BeforeCowboys StadiumHostTexas77.64-8.428.55
02/05/2011Day AfterCowboys StadiumHostTexas57.64-34.596.11
02/05/2011Super Bowl XLVCowboys StadiumHostTexas137.6470.0715.89
02/04/2012Day BeforeNew York GiantsWinnerNew York12.99-66.611.18
02/04/2012Day AfterNew York GiantsWinnerNew York42.9933.584.72
02/04/2012Super Bowl XLVINew York GiantsWinnerNew York12.99-66.611.18
02/04/2012Day BeforeNew England PatriotsLoserMassachusetts11.000.271.18
02/04/2012Day AfterNew England PatriotsLoserMassachusetts01.00-100.000.00
02/04/2012Super Bowl XLVINew England PatriotsLoserMassachusetts21.00100.552.36
02/04/2012Day BeforeLucas Oil StadiumHostIndiana31.9752.503.54
02/04/2012Day AfterLucas Oil StadiumHostIndiana01.97-100.000.00
02/04/2012Super Bowl XLVILucas Oil StadiumHostIndiana11.97-49.171.18
02/02/2013Day BeforeBaltimore RavensWinnerMaryland11.18-15.311.21
02/02/2013Day AfterBaltimore RavensWinnerMaryland01.18-100.000.00
02/02/2013Super Bowl XLVIIBaltimore RavensWinnerMaryland01.18-100.000.00
02/02/2013Day BeforeSan Francisco 49ersLoserCalifornia77.84-10.668.46
02/02/2013Day AfterSan Francisco 49ersLoserCalifornia117.8440.3813.29
02/02/2013Super Bowl XLVIISan Francisco 49ersLoserCalifornia97.8414.8610.88
02/02/2013Day BeforeMercedes-Benz SuperdomeHostLouisiana31.7868.203.63
02/02/2013Day AfterMercedes-Benz SuperdomeHostLouisiana41.78124.274.83
02/02/2013Super Bowl XLVIIMercedes-Benz SuperdomeHostLouisiana31.7868.203.63
02/01/2014Day BeforeSeattle SeahawksWinnerWashington11.18-14.921.21
02/01/2014Day AfterSeattle SeahawksWinnerWashington11.18-14.921.21
02/01/2014Super Bowl XLVIIISeattle SeahawksWinnerWashington11.18-14.921.21
02/01/2014Day BeforeDenver BroncosLoserColorado01.24-100.000.00
02/01/2014Day AfterDenver BroncosLoserColorado11.24-19.071.21
02/01/2014Super Bowl XLVIIIDenver BroncosLoserColorado11.24-19.071.21
02/01/2014Day BeforeMetLife StadiumHostNew Jersey31.43109.373.64
02/01/2014Day AfterMetLife StadiumHostNew Jersey01.43-100.000.00
02/01/2014Super Bowl XLVIIIMetLife StadiumHostNew Jersey21.4339.582.43
01/31/2015Day BeforeNew England PatriotsWinnerMassachusetts00.90-100.000.00
01/31/2015Day AfterNew England PatriotsWinnerMassachusetts00.90-100.000.00
01/31/2015Super Bowl XLIXNew England PatriotsWinnerMassachusetts10.9011.281.12
01/31/2015Day BeforeSeattle SeahawksLoserWashington21.3746.292.24
01/31/2015Day AfterSeattle SeahawksLoserWashington01.37-100.000.00
01/31/2015Super Bowl XLIXSeattle SeahawksLoserWashington11.37-26.851.12
01/31/2015Day BeforeUniversity of Phoenix StadiumHostArizona52.22125.035.61
01/31/2015Day AfterUniversity of Phoenix StadiumHostArizona02.22-100.000.00
01/31/2015Super Bowl XLIXUniversity of Phoenix StadiumHostArizona02.22-100.000.00
02/06/2016Day BeforeDenver BroncosWinnerColorado01.52-100.000.00
02/06/2016Day AfterDenver BroncosWinnerColorado11.52-34.411.06
02/06/2016Super Bowl LDenver BroncosWinnerColorado11.52-34.411.06
02/06/2016Day BeforeCarolina PanthersLoserNorth Carolina43.688.614.25
02/06/2016Day AfterCarolina PanthersLoserNorth Carolina23.68-45.702.13
02/06/2016Super Bowl LCarolina PanthersLoserNorth Carolina53.6835.765.31
02/06/2016Day BeforeLevi's StadiumHostCalifornia129.1730.8312.75
02/06/2016Day AfterLevi's StadiumHostCalifornia119.1719.9311.69
02/06/2016Super Bowl LLevi's StadiumHostCalifornia109.179.0310.63
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