If you travel by car over Memorial Day weekend, as many people do, you need to exercise caution. While the days are longer with the onset of summer, and driving conditions are far better than during the winter months, there are good reasons to exercise caution during your Memorial Day weekend road trip. Better driving conditions, a three-day weekend, and hopefully good weather present an almost-irresistible combination to take to the road to seek out a sunny waterfront destination, such as a lake, river or beach.
While conditions for driving are generally good over Memorial Day weekend, the holiday tends to bring out a greater number of drivers under the influence of alcohol. In fact, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, drunk drivers are responsible for almost twice as many traffic fatalities during the summer months as during the entire rest of the year. Young drivers without much experience, especially teen drivers, are at even greater risk.
Memorial Day Weekend Is Especially Deadly
While summer holiday weekends all feature greater risks of traffic accidents than do regular weekends, Memorial Day weekend poses a risk of fatal accidents four times greater than non-holiday weekends. In fact, Memorial Day was the deadliest weekend for fatal traffic accidents from 2011 through 2015, according to the NHTSA, averaging 312 fatal accidents during that time period. Labor Day weekend ranked second, with an average of 308 fatalities; and the July Fourth weekend third, with an average of 307 fatalities.
Moreover, the National Safety Council routinely projects that Memorial Day Weekend will be the deadliest weekend of the year, and it usually is. In 2017, the NSC projected that there would be more than 400 traffic fatalities over the Memorial Day weekend, a sharp jump from the average of 364 traffic fatalities over Memorial Day weekend from 2010 through 2015. That would represent an estimated 12% increase over the average traffic deaths from 2010-2015.
The NSC also estimated that there would be about 47,000 serious injuries – meaning that some medical attention is required – during the Memorial Day weekend. Although final data for last year’s Memorial Day weekend is not available, the estimates by the NSC are in line with traffic fatality data indicating that deaths were up 6% in 2016 and 14% over 2014, the sharpest two-year jump since 1964. Past statistics and estimates by reputable organizations such as the National Safety Council deem Memorial Day weekend one of the deadliest times to be on the road.
Drunk Drivers Are More Prevalent on Holiday Weekends, Including Memorial Day
While traffic deaths are down over the last 20 years or so, holiday weekends, including Memorial Day, remain very dangerous, with increasing risks of being involved in a traffic accident and higher numbers of fatalities. Put simply, there are more drunk drivers on the road on holiday weekends, and Memorial Day might be the worst. NHTSA statistics show that there are roughly 400 traffic fatalities every Memorial Day weekend, and about 44% of accidents over the Memorial Day weekend involve alcohol-impaired drivers. There are simply more accidents nationwide involving fatalities over Memorial Day weekend, with the higher number of alcohol-impaired drivers contributing substantially to the problem.
With more drunk drivers on the road – and more travelers in general, leading to traffic congestion – it is easy to see why Memorial Day weekend, like many other holiday weekends, would be more dangerous for motorists. If you must travel on Memorial Day weekend, take extra caution. Watch out for drunk or erratic drivers, and try to stay off the roads altogether late at night when drunk drivers are more prevalent. You can’t prevent the risk of all accidents, but you can reduce the risk of accidents or serious injuries through common-sense measures.
You Can Take Steps to Reduce the Risk of Accidents
Addition measures to reduce the risk of accidents and injuries over Memorial Day weekend include:
- Always wear a seatbelt. Make sure that any children in the car also are properly restrained, either by seatbelts or in safety seats appropriate for their height, age, and weight.
- If you are attending an event involving alcohol, have a designated alcohol and drug-free driver. Failing that, arrange alternate transportation, such as a taxi or ride service. Don’t be part of the problem.
- Don’t drive tired – get enough sleep and take breaks or switch drivers.
- Don’t use a cell phone while driving, even if the phone is hands-free.
- Don’t let teens drive with their friends. Adding just one young passenger to a car driven by a teen can increase a teen driver’s fatal crash risk by 44%, according to Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health.
- Educate yourself on your vehicle’s safety systems. Make sure you know how to use them to avoid confusion when you are on the road and need to use those systems.
If You Are Involved in a Traffic Accident in the Chicago area Over the Memorial Day Weekend, Contact the Attorneys of Abels & Annes
If you have been involved in an accident over Memorial Day weekend, make sure to consult a knowledgeable attorney to determine what your rights are under the circumstances of your accident. The attorneys of Abels & Annes can assist you in protecting your rights when you are involved in an accident in the Greater Chicago, Illinois area. You can reach us at (312) 924-7575 or through our website.