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The Most Dangerous Times to be on the Road

By Dansker & Aspromonte

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July 20, 2024

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According to the International Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS), there were 37,133 motor vehicle deaths in 2017. Anytime that you get behind the wheel of a car, you put yourself at risk of being the victim of an accident. While you can’t avoid driving in today’s world, there are some ways to lessen your risk of serious injury and death. One of these ways is by practicing safe driving skills, and another is learning when to stay off the road. Looking at the most dangerous times to be on the road allows you to make informed decisions regarding your travel plans. After evaluating the data, we found five times that are the most deadly for motorists.

1. Rush Hour

When there are more cars on the road, you are more likely to be involved in an accident. Rush hour is one of these times. Not only is there an increase in the number of cars, but the drivers tend to be most stressed. On the way to work, many drivers become anxious trying to get there on time. On the way home, the stress comes from the workday. Drivers also tend to be more tired during this time.

The increase in accidents from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. comes from distraction, frustration and worry. You will also notice rush hour drivers eating, talking on their phones and texting. All of these elements work together to create a volatile driving experience.

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2. Poor Weather Conditions

The Federal Highway Administration estimates that 21% of all traffic accidents are weather-related. While many people recognize how dangerous it is to drive during a snow storm and winter weather, there are other conditions such as wind, fog and rain that also change the driving and road conditions significantly.  Sight distance and stopping times are greatly affected by the weather.

Most weather-related crashes occur on wet pavement. One thing does lessen the potential for an accident and that is that the likelihood of winter condition accidents is smaller because there are fewer vehicles on the road.

3. Increase in Alcohol-Impaired Drivers

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there were 10,874 people killed because of an alcohol-impaired driving crashes in 2017. That’s one every 48 minutes. Over holidays and the summer, there is more of this occurrence and the number skyrockets during Christmas and New Year’s.

The later you drive, the more likely it is you will get into a serious or fatal alcohol-related crash. That’s simply the result of how many more drunk drivers there are at night than during the day. Avoid driving around holidays when possible. Statistics continue to prove that all holiday travel increases the risk of an accident. Driving during Christmas, St. Patrick’s Day, 4th of July or Super Bowl celebrations increases your chances of meeting up with a drunk driver.

USA Today lists the busiest travel days. In order, they are:

  1. Christmas
  2. New Year’s
  3. Thanksgiving
  4. Fourth of July
  5. Memorial Day Weekend
  6. Labor Day Weekend

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4. Summer

At first glance, you would naturally assume that summer would be a great time to drive. After all, it offers the best driving conditions and weather of the year. We benefit from dry roads, long daylight hours and better visibility.

Unfortunately, there are other factors that make summer driving hazardous. The IIHS found that summer and fall months had the most accidents and their study discovered that many of the fatalities occurred on the weekends, late afternoons and evenings. This trend occurs because most Americans drive more during the warmer months. When you factor that the weekend and holidays also increase alcohol consumption, you tend to see a spike in roadway accidents, serious injuries and fatalities.

In addition to what the study found, several other factors contribute to summer accidents. You have an increase in inexperienced drivers on the road when teens are out of school. Summer heat increases the chance of vehicle equipment failure. As the heat outside rises, the stress on a vehicle increases. This is especially true with the tires. Also, there tends to be more construction on the roads during summer. Crews take advantage of the warm weather to get their jobs done, and the construction zones tend to create confusion and accidents. Detours, closed lanes, temporary traffic patterns and any other altered traffic patterns can lead to accidents if a driver isn’t careful and alert.

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5. Saturdays

Of all seven days of the week, Saturday is the deadliest on the road. Many people are busy running errands, going to sporting events, traveling and generally moving about with family. This busyness causes congested roads. When you factor in weekend rushes and alcohol-impaired drivers, conditions for danger and possible disaster increase.

Dangerous Times to Walk

According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, there were 5,984 pedestrian fatalities in 2017. These most often occur on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. The most dangerous holiday for pedestrians is New Year’s Day. USA Today estimates that the rise relates to drunken pedestrians attempting to cross streets or stumbling into the roadway.

Is It Human Error or Vehicle Malfunction?

While vehicle malfunctions do occur, the likelihood that it causes a traffic accident and injury is far less likely than the unsafe behavior of a driver or pedestrian. In fact, National Public Radio (NPR) concluded that some form of human error causes 94% of all fatal car crashes. Eventually, we will have fully autonomous motor vehicles that don’t rely on people, but it’s not a reality today. For now, we are all subject to the mistakes made by others.

Staying Safe on the Road

According to CNBC, the average American spends more than four hours each week commuting. If you are one of these people, it’s likely you can’t choose the times and days you drive. Instead, you have to be vigilant and practice safe driving.

Here are a few tips that help you prevent fatal car accidents.

A.  Allow yourself plenty of time

Life is busy, but you must allow for plenty of time to safely arrive at your destination. When you are in a hurry, you begin to practice unsafe driving habits and are less likely to pay attention.

B.  Get rid of distractions

There’s no doubt that distraction leads to a majority of traffic accidents. Texting or eating or anything that causes you to lose focus on the road is dangerous. Put the phone away for your commute and pay attention to what’s happening around you. Your split-second reaction will make the difference when someone slams on their brakes in front of you or passes a red light or stop sign.

C.  Evaluate the weather

If you watch the weather, you can predict delays. If it’s snowing tonight, expect longer commute times tomorrow. Equip your vehicle with snow tires in the winter and ensure that your windshield wipers always work and your de-icer fluid is ready to go.

D.  Don’t get worked up

No matter what happens on the road, you don’t want to lose your cool. If you find yourself getting irritated with other drivers, take a deep breath. There’s nothing you can do about the situation other than to make the best of it. Don’t allow it to ruin your day or your life.

E.  Keep up with maintenance

While car condition isn’t the most likely reason for an accident, you don’t want to take any chances. Keeping your vehicle running properly allows you to worry about one less thing while driving. Change your oil, have yearly inspections and make sure your tires have the correct air pressure.

F.  Get enough sleep

It’s vital that you get plenty of sleep before driving. If you plan to be on the road for hours, make sure you take breaks often.  On long trips, you should periodically stop the car to take a short walk and stretch your legs. It’s also essential that you eat healthy foods to keep your energy level steady.

If you do get tired, get off the road immediately. It only takes a second to cause a disaster.

G.  Prepare for an emergency

Being prepared alleviates the worry and confusion of a breakdown or accident. Carry all of your insurance documentation, your driver’s license and other pertinent paperwork with you. Know the number of a reliable tow company and keep your car stocked with emergency supplies. Keep a phone charger in your car.  If you are disabled for any reason, call for help.

Stay Safe During Your Travels

Knowing when to drive on the road is one step toward ensuring your safety. By planning to avoid hazardous times, you put the odds in your favor of getting to your destination safely. Any time you drive, you want to take the steps necessary to operate your vehicle with caution. Be prepared, stay alert and remain focused. Your life and the lives of others are in your hands.

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