Memorial Day will be observed this year on Monday, May 30. A federal holiday since 1971, Memorial Day is a remembrance of all those who died while serving the United States in the Armed Forces. Our deceased servicemen and servicewomen are often acknowledged in parades, and volunteers honor those lost while serving by placing flags on gravestones.
Observed on a Monday, the holiday also provides Americans with a three-day weekend. The long weekend, often extended even further by taking days off in the week prior, provides many families with an opportunity to travel for recreation or to gather for outdoor parties and barbecues. Unfortunately, there is also a dark side to the long Memorial Day weekend. Though many long holiday weekends result in higher traffic accidents, Memorial Day is known as the number one holiday for traffic fatalities in the United States.
A Perfect Storm
In a typical year in the U.S., there are approximately 400 deaths due to traffic accidents, a number 13% higher than other non-holiday weekends. Michigan actually saw fewer traffic fatalities during Memorial Day weekend 2015 than in years past; however, it is not a trend expected to hold into this year’s holiday. In fact, experts are warning this year may be one of the worst years ever for traffic accidents over the Memorial Day holiday. The National Safety Council is estimating 439 deaths and over 50,000 injuries caused by vehicle accidents over the upcoming weekend.
Most years see a heavy increase in travel that contributes to the number accidents. The American Automobile Association is predicting a record number of travelers this year due to lower gas prices and a stronger economy. Nationwide, the number of travelers may reach 38 million. In Michigan, the prediction is for 1.2 million travelers to drive 50 or more miles away from home this weekend.
As discussed here last week, there is already an upward trend in traffic fatalities for Michigan over the past year. Greater traffic congestion combined with the consumption of alcohol at many celebrations create a perfect storm for car crashes causing death and serious bodily injury. In fact, alcohol plays a huge role in traffic fatalities throughout the year, but especially during Memorial Day weekend, when alcohol-related accidents are responsible for 44% of crash deaths. Driving or riding without a seatbelt or proper restraint can also be a deadly choice for travelers.
Memorial Day Driving Safety Tips
With this weekend serving to officially kick off the summer, there are a number of things we can all do to minimize the number of accidents, injuries, and fatalities on our roadways.
- Do not drive after drinking or taking any drug that may cause impairment. Choose a designated driver, but be sure the person stays sober.
- Buckle up. Wearing your seatbelt properly, as well as ensuring children are properly restrained in the appropriate car or booster seat can reduce the severity of injury if an accident occurs.
- Be sure your car is in good working condition. Check the air pressure and tread of your tires, and be sure your spare is in the vehicle.
- Reduce distractions and be sure never to use your cell phone while behind the wheel.
- Leave yourself enough time to travel to your destination, keeping in mind the potential for heavy traffic. Drivers who are aggressive and frustrated due to being rushed can be dangerous.
- Drive defensively and stay alert to potential threats on the road.
The attorneys and staff at The Lee Steinberg Law Firm wish you the safest of travels this weekend. If something unexpected happens, and you are involved in an accident, please call our auto accident experts immediately at 1-800-LEE-FREE for an absolutely free consultation.