Driving to your destination on Memorial Day is the most convenient and popular means of transportation to get you where you are going; it is also the most dangerous. Holidays are always the most dangerous times to travel, but warm-weather holidays, including Labor Day and the Fourth of July, tend to have the highest number of car accidents, including the highest number of fatalities.
If knowing that traveling by car on Memorial Day weekend increases the chance of suffering injury or death, one might choose a different method of travel, or choose not to travel at all. To most people, however, allowing the thought of a worse-case scenario to ruin holiday fun is not a possibility.
All factors considered, taking that well-deserved holiday break is what most people are going to choose during the first summertime holiday of the year, Memorial Day. Therefore, it is worth taking a look at some facts and safety tips for the road that could help you have a safer and less worrisome car ride to your destination.
Is Traveling by Car on Memorial Day Statistically More Dangerous?
In a report by the National Safety Council (NSC) that compares the fatality rates for Memorial Day travel to the weekends surrounding it, over a six-year period concluding in 2019, the average number of traffic fatalities was roughly 14 percent greater during Memorial Day weekend.
The report concluded that the average number of people who died during Memorial Day weekend for that specific period of time was 388, which is 48 more deaths than on the surrounding weekends.
Another report from the NSC stated that during Memorial Day weekend in 2019, there were 453 fatalities. Every year the number of car accidents during Memorial Day weekend are considerably higher than most other weekends due to the simple fact that more people take to the roads.
The statistics for each Memorial Day are based on traffic deaths between 6 p.m. Friday and 11:59 p.m. Monday, which is when the vast majority of vacationers travel. Most people have to work on Friday and get back from their vacation on Monday night to get rest for the next work day, Tuesday.
What Are the Common Causes of Car Accidents?
Taking a look at the common causes of car accidents gives an idea of what you need to look out for and what to stay away from doing. Although most drivers are fully aware of what behaviors and situations cause car accidents, it is especially important to consider them before taking to the road on Memorial Day weekend.
You are finished with work, and you are now getting ready to jump into the car with your family or friends and find holiday fun at your Memorial Day destination. Unfortunately, the fact that your vacation is your primary concern greatly diminishes your ability to concentrate on safety.
The first and foremost problem you might have, which at the present time you are not concerned with, is fatigue. It has been a long work week, and you did not want to wait to begin your fun. You therefore have taken to the road tired, which is a serious driving risk.
When you are tired, your ability to focus significantly diminishes. Fatigue causes you to react slowly to stimuli, decreasing your ability to react quickly and efficiently to avoid danger. The more tired you are, the closer to the effect of driving while intoxicated you become.
Sleep deprivation is also a problem during holidays, due to drivers not getting the recommended amount of sleep the night necessary for long drives before their vacation begins. A report from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety indicates that drivers who miss one to two hours of sleep in a 24-hour period nearly double their risk of having a car accident.
Drinking before hitting the road is always a bad idea. Drinking mixed with fatigue is especially dangerous.
Getting to your vacation spot as quickly as possible is usually the goal, and many drivers will especially drive fast once they are out of a traffic jam during a holiday rush. Nevertheless, speeding is always the leading cause of car accidents.
Technology is another big contributor to car accidents. Texting is a particularly dangerous action to take when on the road. It is also not uncommon for a person to use a cellphone or other device for directions during a holiday trip. Looking at a roadmap is extremely dangerous for obvious reasons: your eyes are not on the road. Use the audio direction or ask your passenger to help you navigate, if possible.
Last but not least, poor weather conditions cause many injuries and deaths each and every year. Although Memorial Day in most states does not see icy conditions, rain and high winds equal car accidents.
What Are Some Tips to Avoid a Car Accident on Memorial Day Weekend?
If you will be driving to your destination on Memorial Day weekend, it is of the utmost importance that you be prepared for it. You therefore should prepare days in advance by checking the drivability of your car.
Make sure to check the oil, windshield wipers and fluids, and check your air pressure. Have a spare tire ready just in case. If your car has any serious problems, such as brakes, steering, or motor problems, do not chance it: take another car or have it repaired before departure. If need be, consider a different mode of transportation.
After checking the drivability of your car, get sufficient sleep. Packing in advance is important to avoid sleep deprivation while driving, which as mentioned previously, is similar to driving drunk. If for whatever reason you cannot sleep, do as you would do if you drank alcohol: get a designated driver. In this case, your designated driver is someone who got enough sleep.
Being prepared is essential, so have an emergency kit on hand. Your items should include plenty of water, a first-aid kit, and a map or device to locate a destination, as well as a flashlight, a blanket, and a roadside safety kit. You should pack an emergency kit as if you are considering the likelihood of breaking down.
Do not take that drink before hitting the road. Drunk driving kills. It is not a holiday until you get there safely. If you do hit the bar first, make sure to have a designated driver. More than a third of all Memorial Day accidents are due to impaired driving.
Make every attempt to keep from being distracted. Refrain from texting, turning your head to talk to passengers, and playing with the radio. Keep your eyes on the road; you are already distracted due to your anticipation of the weekend, kids, and the work week you left behind.
Although all parents instinctively watch their children, leaving children unattended during a holiday trip is not uncommon. Running into the convenience store with the kids in the car is a bad idea. Keep the kids with you or an adult in the car at all times. Always wear your seat belt and make sure all passengers are buckled up as well.
Make frequent stops when driving long distances. It is important to stretch your legs and rest your eyes. Get something to eat if you are hungry, and make the necessary trip to the restroom. It is also a good idea to stop in order to consider if you are too tired to continue, in which case consider either an alternate driver or finding a place to sleep for the night.
Be aware of the dangers on the road. Observe and maintain the speed limit, and keep an eye out for signs and traffic signals, especially in unfamiliar places. Maintain a safe distance from cars in front of you, and be aware of cars switching lanes.
Most of all, buckle your seatbelts. Statistically, seatbelts save lives. Most of all, do not be in a hurry. Weaving in and out of traffic can place you at risk as much as speeding or driving under the influence, especially on a long trip.
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