Independence Day falls within the 100 deadliest days. These start on Memorial Day in May and end on Labor Day in September and is one of the most dangerous times of the year for American drivers. Car crash fatalities tend to increase as holiday celebrations and summer vacations get underway.
In 2019, a record-breaking number of travelers took the road on July 4. The AAA estimates that around 48.9 million traveled over Independence Day — 41 million by car. With so many cars on the roads, the number of car crashes also increases.
Accordingly, July 4 is also one of the worst days of the year for car accidents. According to estimates by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), around 594 people died in motor vehicle crashes from July 3 to July 8, 2019.
This year, Independence Day occurs in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. Is it wise to travel over the July 4 weekend this year and if you do, what precautions should you take?
Will COVID-19 Affect Traffic Numbers This July Fourth?
As COVID-19 restrictions ease, traffic is picking up as more people get back on the roads. After months in isolation, the July Fourth weekend may be the first opportunity to enjoy a mini getaway.
Travel is a sector still heavily impacted by COVID-19. Several airlines are still grounded. That means many will have to travel by car, and we could see higher road traffic numbers this July Fourth compared to previous years. On the other hand, with coronavirus cases still on the increase, many may choose to stay home this year, and traffic numbers may drop.
Driving Safety Tips Over the July Fourth Weekend
If you are planning a long-distance road trip, prep your vehicle and practice safe driving. This year, take extra care when traveling to avoid being exposed to the virus.
Take your vehicle for an inspection. Check the tires, brakes, oil, air conditioner, and windscreen wipers if you plan to travel to a region that experiences summer rain.
Don’t speed. When hitting the open road, it’s tempting to put the pedal to the metal. Should you lose control of the car at a high speed, you are less likely to regain control and are at a greater risk of being involved in a serious or fatal car crash.
Don’t drink and drive. A major contributing factor to the high death toll on the roads over the Fourth of July period is alcohol. U.S. Department of Transport statistics show that 40% of fatalities occur in alcohol-impaired crashes.
Get enough rest. Drowsy driving is dangerous. Annually, around 100,000 police-reported car crashes involve a drowsy driver, and more than 1,550 people lose their lives. Take regular breaks, stay overnight at a hotel, and take turns driving if there’s a second driver in the car.
Follow COVID-19 safety protocols. Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer after using restrooms, buying groceries and supplies, or having a sit-down meal.
Sanitize your vehicle. Wipe down car handles and interior surfaces with a disinfectant containing at least 70% alcohol.
Teen Driver Safety During The 100 Deadliest Days
The combination of schools being closed and summertime parties puts teens at a greater risk. Teen drivers are less experienced and more likely to engage in risky driving behavior. July Fourth barbecues may tempt your teen to have a beer or two. If they’re attending a party with friends, remind them about the dangers of drinking and driving. If they don’t feel sober enough to drive, have them call you to pick them up.
According to AAA, more than 8,300 people died in crashes involving teen drivers from 2008 to 2018 during the 100 deadliest days. Taking a defensive driving course will teach them advanced driving skills that can help prevent a serious car crash.
The July Fourth weekend coincides with the 100 deadliest days. This year, it also coincides with the nation reopening after a long lockdown period. That means traffic is likely to surge. If you are traveling, stay safe and healthy.