Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day

The 101 Deadliest Days on the Road and how to survive them

More than 7 million drivers involved in a crash attribute it to distractions and 292,000 attribute the cause to talking on a cell phone.

The statistics are tragic, but true. More Americans die on the nation’s highways during the summer than during any other time of the year. The period between the Saturday before Memorial Day and Labor Day sees more drivers on the road, and more deaths related to automobiles.

The dangers are real, but so are your chances for survival when you implement strategies that protect you while you’re behind the wheel.


On the Road

Americans travel more than 1 trillion miles during the 101 days – that’s 10.5 million more miles per month than other months of the year (Bureau of Transportation Statistics, 2001). Record numbers of Americans will travel this Memorial Day holiday, based on a new AAA survey: nearly 37 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home this holiday – a 3.6% increase from last year.

All those miles take a tragic toll: on average, 269 more people die in traffic fatalities each month during the summer than in other months of the year. Of the 25 deadliest days on American roads in the past five years, 20 of them fell during the 101 days from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day, including four of the top five (NHTSA, 1998-2002 data).


Children and the Highways

Children also are casualties of summer. Motor vehicle deaths are the No. 1 cause of death of children, and child motor vehicle deaths are highest during the summer months. Teen traffic deaths also peak in summer: a 2003 study of teen driving behavior conducted by Liberty Mutual and Students Against Drunk Driving found that July saw more deaths (644) of youth ages 15-20 than any other month, followed by June (600), September (590) and August (587) in 2002.

Traffic deaths peak three times during the 101 days – Memorial Day weekend, the July 4 th holiday, and Labor Day weekend. That alone marks the 101 days as a time for special caution: The average number of traffic deaths during holiday periods are 156 per day compared to 117 per day on non-holidays(NCSA, Research Note March, 2004, DOT HS 809 718).

Most fatal crashes happen on two-lane, undivided highways and occur between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. Most fatal crashes involving alcohol occur between midnight and 3 a.m.

Besides traveling more, American families tend to change their driving habits in the summer – in ways that heighten risk to children and teens. Children are more likely to be on the road with their parents in summer – parents who travel longer distances, travel at night, and for longer stretches. During the summer, families with children were six times more likely to drive home from a long day trip while fatigued than people without children. And teen driving increases dramatically in summer, when many teens drive at night for the first time. Teen drivers average 44% more hours behind the wheel each week during the summer than during the school year, and 47% of teen drivers drive at night, compared to 6% during the school year(Liberty Mutual/ SADD, 2003).


You CAN stay safe

The good news is there are smart strategies that can drastically increase families’ chances of avoiding or surviving a crash this summer, as the family stories here illustrate. Some are basic good habits, such as buckling up and not drinking and driving. Others include avoiding late night driving marathons with children and not giving new drivers excessive driving privileges all at once just because summer is here.

We urge you to draw from the strategies outlined in this web site and develop your own family plan to survive – and enjoy – the 101 deadliest days on the road.

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