Remember when you were a new driver? The risks of getting behind the wheel were drilled into your head by parents and driving instructors. You were reminded that you were steering a deadly weapon, and you were cognizant of your own inexperience.
Now, driving is second nature. You probably don’t think of driving risks every time you start your vehicle, and you are likely quite confident in your driving ability.
Unfortunately, you’re not the only variable in the equation. No matter how safely you drive, you are at the mercy of your fellow drivers who may be new to driving, driving under the influence, talking on the phone, talking to their passengers, feeling drowsy, fiddling with the radio, or checking out their own reflection in the car mirror.
While you can’t stay home and be scared, you can be smart about when you choose to drive. There are certain times of the year when reckless driving and traffic accidents spike. You can minimize your risks by stepping up your vigilance on the roads and even limiting your driving at certain times.
Fall and Winter Holidays
Thanksgiving. More people hit the road during Thanksgiving weekend than they do at any other time of the year. Expect your risks to rise at any time during this weekend, particularly on the Wednesday prior to Thanksgiving. This date is not only more dangerous because more people are on the road but also because more people are getting drunk. Bars are typically packed on this date, which is referred to as “Blackout Wednesday.”
The Sunday after Thanksgiving is problematic as well because the roads are jam-packed with people rushing to get home after a weekend away.
Christmas. Christmas shopping, frayed nerves due to holiday stress, holiday travel, and inclement weather all contribute to an increase in traffic accidents. So does driving under the influence as alcoholic beverages flow freely at holiday gatherings. The most recent statistics available from the National Safety Council showed that nearly 40% of traffic fatalities during the Christmas holiday (roughly December 23-26) involved a drunk driver.
New Year’s Eve. New Year’s Eve carries similar risks to the Christmas holiday, with alcohol responsible for 36% of fatal motor vehicle accidents during the holiday. Add to that the risk of poor weather, and it’s not a bad idea to stay home on New Year’s Eve.
Summer Travel Season
Looking to travel between Memorial Day and Labor Day? So are many other Americans! That’s why this travel season is known as the “100 deadliest days of summer.” And road trips are compounded by inexperienced teen drivers hitting the roads more with school out of session.
Whenever teens are out in force, risks rise. The American Automobile Association reports that the risk for deadly car crashes among new teenage drivers is three times the risk for adults. And one-third of fatal, teen-related accidents happen during the 100 deadliest days of summer.
The Fourth of July falls within this window and is known as the single deadliest day of the year where road fatalities are concerned. Take all of the risk factors above and mix them with alcohol from Independence Day parties, and you end up with major risks for motorists. That backyard BBQ and watching fireworks on TV is sounding even better.
Super Bowl Sunday/ St. Patrick’s Day/Cinco de Mayo
Though we don’t see traffic accidents spike as noticeably for these days as for the others mentioned above, accident rates and resulting fatalities still surge with these celebrations.
Rush Hour/Late Hours
Car accidents peak between 4 pm and 8 pm due to rush hour traffic in fall and winter. In spring and summer, more accidents occur between 8 pm and midnight, especially on Saturdays.
Inclement Weather Days
Bad weather can increase driving risks exponentially. According to the Federal Highway Administration, rain is the biggest risk factor, with 70% of weather-related wrecks occurring on wet pavement and nearly 50% happening during active rainfall.
Snow and ice are second, with snow or sleet causing nearly 20% of weather-related crashes and ice causing 13%.
Driving Risks on the Rise
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, traffic fatalities were at a 16 year high in 2021. And even though 2022 statistics aren’t fully in yet, the year got off to a sobering start with first quarter fatalities reaching a 20 year high.
Double Down on Precautions
Our Utah car accident lawyers remind all drivers of these important precautions:
- Buckle up and ensure that all of your passengers do, too. The CDC reports that this simple act can reduce death and injuries by as much as 50%.
- Never drive when under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Plan ahead by arranging for a designated driver or making arrangements for a car-share service (Uber, Lyft, etc.).
- Go the speed limit, except in inclement weather when you should be prepared to reduce your speed below the posted limit. It’s recommended that you reduce speed by at least 30% (down to 40 mph in a 60 mph zone). In snow, plan to reduce by 50% or more (30 mph or less in a 60 mph zone).
- Avoid distractions. Phones are a major culprit so take precautions such as choosing your playlist and setting your navigation before you even turn on the car. Ignore calls and texts.
You can eliminate these distractions by silencing your phone or putting it in the back of the car while you drive. You can also install self-locking apps that freeze your phone so that you can concentrate on the most important task at hand—driving safely.
Fatigue, food, interactions with passengers, and temperature/radio adjustments can also take your attention off of the road at critical times, and it’s never worth the risk.
These precautions are important all the time and especially when road risks are at their highest. The safest bet is to stay home in inclement weather and on days of the year when driving fatalities peak, so carefully weigh your need to travel against the attendant risks. If you must be on the road during these times, drive like your life–and others’ lives–depend on it.