Memorial Day not only kicks off summer for many families but it also heralds the “100 Deadliest Days” of the year for fatal car crashes, according to researchers at the National Safety Council, AAA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and others. This is especially true for teens.
From the Highway Safety Advocates at WeSaveLives.Org comes the following warning for parents and teenagers about this time of year:
This may be the time to relax and plan for summer fun but IT IS NOT the time to relax while driving, especially for your teens.
Consider the following:
- The number one cause of death for American teenagers is motor vehicle accidents.
- There is an increase of 26% in teen deaths caused by car crashes in the summer months.
Teen Drivers at Higher Risk of Serious Motor Vehicle Accident in Summer Months
It has been established that teenagers (both drivers and passengers) are more likely to be seriously injured or killed in a motor vehicle accident now and through Labor Day Weekend than they are at any other time of year.
“Statistics show that teen crashes spike during the summer months because teens are out of school and on the road. The Foundation’s research found that inexperience paired with greater exposure on the road could create a deadly combination for teen drivers.”
There are several reasons for the increased danger of auto accidents involving teens in the summer months. They include:
1. Failing to Use Safety Belts
According to AAA research, 60% of teenagers driving a vehicle who died in a fatal crash had chosen not to buckle up their seat belt.
2. Distracted Driving
It’s true that driving while texting or otherwise using a cell phone is a major problem in the United States and a major cause of motor vehicle accidents. For teen drivers, 60% of severe crashes involved some kind of distracted driving.
However, studies have found that it is not just phones that distract teen drivers and increase their likelihood of a fatal crash. It is also the teen driver being distracted by his or her passengers. The danger of a serious crash skyrockets when a teen driver shares the ride with teenage passengers.
Teen drivers like to speed. Perhaps they do so inadvertently because they are less experienced. Some teenagers may enjoy the feeling of rebellion that comes with disobeying the set speed limit, especially when they don’t see the need for it (i.e. “there wasn’t anyone else on the road!”).
However, in one-third of fatal teen auto accidents, exceeding the speed limit was a factor in the fatal crash.
Risk of Fatal Crash Even Higher in 2017 Because of Economic Factors
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the current economy has encouraged people to drive more often and to take more risks when doing so. Even though newer models of cars, trucks, SUVs, and minivans are built to be safer with safer designs and technology, these achievements are not enough to thwart the increasing danger of a fatal car crash now or in the foreseeable future.
From IIHS chief researcher David Zuby:
“Vehicles continue to improve, performing better and better in crash tests. The latest driver death rates show there is a limit to how much these changes can accomplish without other kinds of efforts.”
Traffic death rates are rising. In both 2015 and 2016, the number of fatal traffic accidents rose significantly in this country.
According to the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, the largest percentage increase in traffic highway deaths in the past 50 years was in 2015, and 2016 statistics are expected to exceed that number. What’s happening here? IIHS explains that “[a]n increase in traffic deaths is a predictable downside to an improving economy.”
Certain Times More Dangerous Than Others for Fatal Traffic Accidents
The results of a recent traffic pattern survey have been compiled for the second year in a row and provide warnings on certain times of day and certain days of the week that appear to be more dangerous than others for a fatal crash.
From EverQuote’s 100 Deadliest Days of Driving Survey, we know the following:
- Thursday and Friday have the most distracted drivers with an estimated 36% of drivers driving distracted on these days.
- Friday has drivers most likely to drive hazardously with risky acceleration (15% of drivers).
- Sunday is the most dangerous for drivers breaking the speed limit during the day (though more people speed during rush hour traffic as a particular time of day).
- Early Morning (5-6 am) has the most speeding with over half of those driving during the early morning hours exceeding the speed limit.
- Rush Hour (4-6pm) has the most distracted drivers as well as the most drivers exceeding the speed limit. According to the survey, 68% of rush hour drivers were using their phone in some way.
Putting all this data together and what do you get? Maybe this: the risk of a serious and fatal motor vehicle accident appears to be the highest during the summer months, on a Thursday or Friday, during rush hour.
2017 Fatality Predictions
Already, authorities are concerned that this summer will break past fatality records for motor vehicle deaths. The National Safety Council forecasts the number of fatal accidents over the 2017 Memorial Day Weekend to be 12% higher than the past 6 years.
The Fourth of July Holiday Weekend in 2017 is expected to be even more deadly. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) considers July 3-4 to be two of the four deadliest days of the year for traffic fatalities. (The other two are December 23-24.)
The upcoming July 4th Holiday will be especially dangerous for motorcyclists. IIHS data shows that more motorcycle crash fatalities happen on the Fourth of July than any other day of the year.
“If every driver buckled up and every motorcyclist wore a helmet, no one was impaired by alcohol, and everyone drove the speed limit, we could make July 4 and every other day safer on the road.”
This summer and especially over the upcoming Fourth of July Holiday, please be alert and aware of the dangers you face driving the roads of Indiana and Illinois. Accident injury laws and wrongful death statutes exist to find justice for victims of these tragic accidents, but the better result by far is avoiding the risk and keeping loved ones safe. Let’s be careful out there!