Memorial Day, as we all know, is the unofficial start of the summer season. But, it is also one of the most dangerous driving weekends of the year. This Memorial Day weekend, with more than half the nation vaccinated against the coronavirus, AAA expects more than 37 million people will travel 50 miles or more from home, which is an increase of 60% from 2020 when most places were shut down due to the pandemic.
But with such a major increase in travel numbers, the danger of car accidents and other auto incidents will also increase.
Spike in Road Travel
Of those traveling, a vast majority – more than 34 million – will be traveling by vehicle. The National Safety Council (NSC) has already estimated that about 415 people may lose their lives in the United States this weekend on our roads. Officials say many people choose to travel by car during Memorial Day weekend, a mode of transport that has the highest fatality rate based on deaths per miles traveled.
This is also the first major holiday since COVID-19 vaccines have been widely and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently updated guidance that fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear facemasks. Safety advocates also see this growth in consumer confidence as an indicator for the rest of the summer when road travel will continue to increase.
Driving Tips for Safety
During this time, it is all the more important to observe the rules of the road and make sure we take the necessary steps to protect ourselves as well as our passengers. Here are a few tips for driving safely this Memorial Day weekend:
- Make sure your vehicle is in good shape for the trip, whether you are taking a long road trip or a relatively short trip. In addition to filling up the tank and getting your car washed so you can see clearly, be sure to check the oil, tire pressure, windshield washer fluid and vehicle recalls. Check to see if your vehicle has an open recall by visiting the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s website and entering your vehicle identification number. Also, keep a roadside emergency kit in the vehicle, just to be prepared.
- Avoid all types of distractions when you drive. Many jurisdictions have outlawed talking on a handheld phone and texting while driving. In addition to phone-related distractions, make sure you are not fiddling with the radio or GPS while driving. Even actions such as talking to passengers, eating, or drinking while driving could cause a distraction while on the road.
- Make sure you observe the posted speed limit and drive at a speed that is safe, given the traffic, roadway, and weather conditions in the area you are traveling in.
- Don’t drive under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. Even prescription drugs or over-the-counter cold and cough medicines can make you drowsy and pose a danger when you are driving.
- Make sure you wear your seatbelt and that your passengers are also buckled up. Seatbelts save lives.
If you are traveling this weekend, we wish you happy and safe travels!