Memorial Day weekend marks the start of the summer travel season. It’s also infamous for being one of the most dangerous times of year to be on the road.
AAA projects that this Memorial Day the roads will be more packed than they’ve been in a long time. They’re estimating that 39.3 million people will travel 50+ miles during Memorial Day weekend, which is the highest number since 2005. Over 88% of those travelers plan on driving to their vacation destination. That means about 750,000 more people will be on the road compared to last year - and more accidents are likely to occur.
Research from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has shown that the summer as a whole has twice the number of automotive deaths compared to the rest of the year. Some have actually dubbed the period from Memorial Day to Labor Day as the “100 deadliest days” for teen drivers that are out of school.
If you’ve got a trip planned this Memorial Day, take a few minutes to read the tips below. They could help keep you from becoming a holiday driving statistic.
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Never Drink and Drive . . . or Let Someone Else Do It
Memorial Day weekend combines the beginning of summer (when people are eager to get out and take advantage of the warm weather) with holiday festivities, which for some involves drinking alcohol. The primary reason traffic accidents and automotive deaths increase during the holidays is because of the incidence of drunk driving spikes.
The best way you can protect yourself and passengers this Memorial Day weekend is to avoid alcohol altogether if you’re driving (and you shouldn't be drinking at all if you're not 21), and don’t let others drink and drive either. Designate a sober driver, or Lyft it!
Avoid Peak Travel Times
The fewer people there are on the road the less likely you are to get into an accident. You can’t control when others are on the road, but you can adjust your schedule to avoid peak travel times:
- Stay at home Thursday - in 2015 traffic was more congested on the Thursday before Memorial Day than on Friday.
- Work through the week and hit the road early on Saturday. It’s the day with the least amount of traffic during the holiday weekend.
- Head back home on Monday morning to beat the afternoon crowds.
Come Up With Alternative Routes
Car accidents, road work, and poor road conditions can all make a route less safe. Before heading out, check the local traffic reports. Think of it like planning an evacuation route. If your original route doesn’t look ideal consider the alternatives. A route that’s typically longer could take less time depending on the holiday traffic. Also, come up with a backup route in case you run into something unexpected along the way.
Inspect Your Car a Few Days in Advance
AAA is expecting to rescue more than 330,000 motorists over the Memorial Day weekend. Many of those rescues will be due to preventable car problems. A few days before leaving give your car a thorough inspection (or pay a pro to do it for you). Make sure to check the:
- Spare tire
- Fluid levels
Inspecting your car like...
Anything that isn’t working properly should be fixed before you leave. It’s also a good idea to brush up on your driving skills before a big road trip. Check out these safe driving videos to see if you’re ready for the Memorial Day madness.