Staying Safe on the Most Dangerous Travel Holiday of the Year
By Nathan D. Williams, Staff Writer
Independence Day is fast approaching as many families across the U.S. plan some time away to celebrate the nation’s founding and enjoy a little R&R. AAA projects 41 million Americans will travel more than 50 miles from home this coming weekend, the highest level since 2007.
Like any other major holiday, highways will be extra crowded this weekend, and therefore, extra dangerous. Traffic fatalities generally spike around holidays like the 4th of July, Thanksgiving and New Year’s.
Independence Day is Deadliest Holiday
However, according to data from the National Safety Council, the 4th of July is the deadliest holiday of the year on the nation’s highways. More than 540 fatalities and 58,000 serious injuries occurred during the Independence Day holiday according to data from 2013.
With more travelers anticipated to hit the road this upcoming weekend, many expect this number to be even higher in 2015.
Why are traffic fatalities so much higher on the 4th of July?
One of the primary contributors to this elevated fatality rate is alcohol consumption. Both Independence Day and New Year’s Day experience a high level of traffic deaths because people are more likely to drink and drive. Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that alcohol was the contributing factor for 61 fatalities per day over the 4th of July travel weekend from 2007 to 2011.
It doesn’t take too many drinks for someone to be to be a risk to themselves and others on the road. Two beers for instance is enough to impair judgement while four beers, which roughly equals the standard blood-alcohol limit of 0.08, can hamper a driver’s ability to control their speed.
How can I protect myself from drunk drivers?
Law enforcement is gearing up for one of the busiest weekends of the year for DUI, or driving under the influence. Sobriety checkpoints during peak times are common on holidays like 4th of July and New Year’s Day.
However, law enforcement can’t be everywhere, which is why motorists should drive defensively and try to avoid the roads after midnight. If you must travel, use the 4 R’s of defensive driving developed by the National Safety Council. These include:
Reading the road carefully
Reducing your speed
Driving to the right
Riding off the road if necessary
If you plan on having a few drinks over the weekend, please be careful and do not drive if you’ve had more than one. Penalties for DUI are pretty stiff in most states and the consequences for causing an accident are even greater. Choose a designated driver or call a cab.
And if you’re traveling at all this weekend, stay safe out there. Defensive driving is wise any day of the year, but it’s even more crucial during holidays like the 4th of July.