We don’t typically think of Memorial Day as being a particularly dangerous holiday. But even as we commemorate those who have given their lives serving in the United States’ armed forces, many more lives are placed at risk over the weekend as people — particularly teens — get behind the wheel.
Memorial Day Driving Deaths
Memorial Day is the first major holiday weekend of the year, and it’s also considered the unofficial start of summer. But the combination of the long weekend and good weather also means that a lot more people are driving — according to AAA, 87% of travel on Memorial Day weekend happens by automobile. There are a few things you can keep in mind to keep you safer on the road:
- Don’t Drink and Drive
Don’t let the holiday spirit tempt you into having a drink or two too many and then getting behind the wheel. An average of 161 people per day are killed in accidents over the three-day Memorial Day weekend, and 40% of those are killed in drunk-driving crashes.
- Drive Defensively
As much as holiday travel is meant to be a vacation, family trips often tend to be stressful, with a car full of people and pressure to get someplace on time. Don’t let yourself get distracted; keep your attention on your driving, plus on all the other cars around you. Remember, other drivers are probably dealing with most of the same stressors as you are, even if they’re trying to make responsible decisions. There are 13.1% more traffic deaths on Memorial Day weekend, on average, than on a regular non-holiday weekend, and it’s better to be a few minutes late to your in-laws’ cookout than it is to become a part of that statistic.
Summer Driving and Teens
As the de facto start of summer, Memorial Day weekend also marks the beginning of the 100 deadliest days of the year for teen drivers. According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data from 2012, more than 1,000 people were killed in crashes involving teens, so any teen drivers in your household should work on being extra careful. Again, there are a few smart moves that can keep both teens and the drivers around them safer on the road:
- Limit Night Driving
Night driving is sometimes unavoidable, but it should be limited for teens. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has found that the fatal crash rate for 16- to 19-year-olds is a full four times as high per mile driven when those miles are driven at night. Whenever possible, make plans so that teens won’t need to drive at night.
- Be Smart About Groups
Typically, one of the major reasons teens want to drive is to facilitate social interaction. The problem with that? Teens are 44% more likely to get into accidents when they have passengers in their vehicles, according to a study conducted by the National Safety Council. Whether you’re a teen driver yourself or the parent of a teen driver, it’s a good idea to talk about how to safely interact with passengers in ways that don’t take too much attention off driving.
Do you have any more tips for dealing with the increased road risks that come along with driving on a holiday weekend? Share them in the comments — and remember, drive safely.