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Memorial Day Car Accidents

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Jeff Sevey

Memorial Day is the gateway to summer, and during that weekend, people are celebrating with barbecues, pool parties, and other outdoor entertaining. But if you'll be traveling for Memorial Day, you may want to reconsider and stay close to home instead. The reason? You are four times more likely to perish in a traffic accident during Memorial Day weekend than during any other weekend of the year.

A recent study by ValuePenguin, a personal finance website, offered some insight into the dangers of driving during Memorial Day weekend, based on statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The goal of the study was to discover which holiday weekends were the most dangerous for drivers around the country. Surprisingly, Memorial Day was the most hazardous, rather than a big "drinking" holiday such as New Year's Eve.

In analyzing data from the NHTSA, ValuePenguin counted a car crash as fatal if at least one person died in the crash. The numbers reflect crashes that resulted in fatalities, not total fatalities. On average, between the years 2011 and 2015, there were 312 fatal vehicle crashes each year. Following close behind Memorial Day weekend, Labor Day weekend averaged 308 fatal crashes, and 4th of July weekend averaged 307 crashes.

The American Automobile Association, or AAA, has forecasted that over 34 million Americans will be driving over Memorial Day weekend 2017, each traveling an average of more than 50 miles. This is the greatest number of travelers for this particular weekend since 2005.

The National Coalition for Safer Roads recently released studies showing that Memorial Day weekend also tops the list of the weekend with the most red-lights run. Most likely due to drivers being excited about the long weekend off work, and being frustrated with summer road work and traffic congestion, drivers tend to get aggressive. When speed and aggressiveness mix, accidents are bound to happen.

Their report states that over 2.3 million drivers over 18 states ran through red lights over Memorial Day weekend in 2016. That equates to 1.2 red lights run every second over the weekend. The number of drivers running a red light over Memorial Day weekend was over 27% higher than that of any other weekend during the year, with the Friday before the holiday having the most red-light violations.

As if the weekend needed any additional issues, Memorial Day was also the leader in fatal accidents involving drunk drivers. Clearly, there is a need to be hyper-aware when driving on Memorial Day weekend in order to get to your destination safely, and in one piece.

With all of these surprising statistics, it would appear that driving on any summer holiday weekend is far more dangerous than driving during a non-holiday weekend. The single most dangerous day to be driving is July 4th, a notorious drinking holiday, and a day when many families are driving to and from fireworks displays at night.

So how can we battle this cycle of drinking, accidents, injuries and fatalities while driving during Memorial Day weekend? We've put together nine safe driving tips that will help keep you and yours safer every day of the year, but especially if you will be traveling over the Memorial Day weekend.

  • Give yourself a lot of extra travel time. You’ll undoubtedly face more traffic on the roads, as well as road construction, which will cause delays. Remember that the goal is for you to get to your destination safely so that you can have a great time celebrating!
  • Practice patience as much as possible when you are behind the wheel. Everyone wants to get to their destination as quickly as possible, but there are some things you have no control over, like traffic and how fast it’s moving. So just sit back, listen to some of your favorite music or an audiobook, and enjoy the fact that you’re on your way to a good time with a long weekend ahead to enjoy.
  • If you’ll be driving long distances, get out of your car every couple of hours or so and stretch. Take a short walk. Do a bit of sight-seeing on your way. This will help you stay mentally alert and physically optimal for driving.
  • Be aware of driving during the highest-risk times during the weekend - Friday afternoon when people are leaving work being the most dangerous. Try to stay off the road during these times, but if you must travel, be prepared for additional traffic, and drive defensively.
  • Pay extra attention at red lights and when crossing intersections. People in a hurry to get to their destinations will be running red lights, and you don’t want to end up in an accident because of their irresponsibility.
  • Eliminate distractions. Turn off your phone while driving, and limit noise in the vehicle. Make it easier for yourself to drive safely by adjusting mirrors, temperature controls, music, etc. before you begin driving, and if they need additional adjustments after you’ve departed on your travels, wait until you stop, or pull over.
  • Slow down a little. We know you’re excited to get to the party, but the few extra minutes you spend being careful will be well worth it when you arrive safely.
  • Keep plenty of space between you and the vehicle ahead of you. And if you’re driving behind a large commercial vehicle, remember that if you can’t see the truck’s mirrors, the driver can’t see you.
  • Be aware and alert when you’re driving. Notice how the drivers around you are acting, and try to anticipate their actions. Don’t be reactive, and try to stay calm, cool, and collected when driving.

Memorial Day weekend can be a dangerous weekend to drive, but it can also be fun if you put safety first!

At The Sevey Law Firm, we wish you the safest Memorial Day weekend possible. If you do find yourself the victim of an auto accident due to the negligence of another driver, we encourage you to contact us for a free, no-obligation consultation.

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