Memorial Day serves as a time to remember fallen heroes, and it is important to reflect on their sacrifices. While it is a serious holiday, Memorial Day is also celebrated as the unofficial start of summer. In many states where winters are long and dark, Memorial Day represents warmer weather. Weather permitting, barbeques, picnics, and visits to the beach are common celebrations.
Studies have shown that Memorial Day weekend is the deadliest holiday period for driving. The National Safety Council (NSC) estimates that around 400 fatalities could occur because of car accidents on Memorial Day weekend. ValuePenguin, a consumer interest research firm, has found that each year, about 312 traffic fatalities occur during this holiday weekend. Approximately 40 percent of the reported fatal crashes involved drunk driving. In addition, Memorial Day weekend has been found to be second only to the Fourth of July holiday weekend for DUI-related fatalities.
A further concern is the impact of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on driving habits. With less congestion on the roads, drivers have routinely been exceeding the posted speed limits. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has found that approximately 9,000 people are killed each year from speeding. Since speed limits are set to ensure maximum safety for existing road conditions, exceeding the speed limit adds to the risk of crashing. Speeding means drivers have less control over their vehicles and less time and distance to stop. While total crashes may have declined during the COVID-19 pandemic, catastrophic crashes have increased.
As the vaccination rollout continues to make progress, more and more people will feel the desire to reconnect with loved ones and friends they may not have seen in a while. It is predicated that traffic conditions will be more congested than usual. Adjusting to these changed conditions may add to the risk of crashes, especially for drivers who have become accustomed to less traffic and exceeding the posted speed limit.
While the risk of being involved in a crash is elevated during Memorial Day weekend, many people will still travel. With careful planning and proper precautions, the holiday weekend can involve safe gatherings with friends and family.
Timing the travel plans can reduce stress and risk. Friday evening is a particularly risky time to be on the roads because many people are hurrying to leave work in time to start celebrating. Avoid this peak travel time if it is possible. If not, be sure to have plenty of time to arrive at the destination. This will avoid the need or desire to hurry or speed. Avoid traveling late at night as well.
Ensure the car is in good working order before a long drive. Be sure the car is up to date with maintenance, including brake pads and rotor. Check to see if tires have proper tread and are inflated to the correct pressure. Also verify that windshield wipers are in good condition and all headlights are in working order. Check fluid levels, such as oil, antifreeze, and windshield washer liquid, and top them off as needed.
Practice defensive driving by taking precautions to prevent accidents before they happen. Some ways to drive defensively include:
Avoid drinking and driving, and consider delaying travel, using a driving service, or asking a friend for a ride after consuming alcohol. In addition, alcohol impairs judgement, and a person who is inebriated is often unaware of the extent of their impairment. It is important to intervene if a friend or family member attempts to drive after drinking and appears to be under the influence.
While many states consider DUI violations to be driving with a blood alcohol content (BAC) level of 0.08 percent or more, it is possible to have diminished skills after a single drink. In Pennsylvania, the legal limit for alcohol is a BAC level of 0.08 percent.
Typically, police patrols and sobriety checkpoints are strategies used to reduce drunk driving and related crashes. While police are required to have probable cause to pull someone over, checkpoints allow police to stop any and all drivers passing through the checkpoint. Expect increases in police presence on the roads during the Memorial Day weekend in an attempt to reduce incidences of alcohol-related crashes.
Many people will gather and travel on Memorial Day weekend, but it is important that all motorists drive safely. If you were injured by a negligent driver, a Pittsburgh personal injury lawyer at AlpernSchubert P.C. can investigate the crash and fight on your behalf. Call us at 412-765-1888 or complete our online form for a free consultation. Located in Pittsburgh, we serve clients throughout western Pennsylvania, including Allegheny County, Lawrence County, and Washington County.