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Approach with caution

There are ample reasons to approach driving with due caution — especially this weekend.  I just wrote of the “100 deadliest days of summer,” which is the period between Memorial Day and Labor Day every year representing a spike in traffic deaths — especially for younger drivers.

Independence Day falls within that time frame, and regularly holds the “honor” of the deadliest day for vehicle related fatalities in the United States.  This year, the potential peril is heightened as automobile usage is expected to be even higher than normal.

According to Urgently, a global mobility and roadside assistance platform, a higher-than-normal number of motor vehicles will hit the roads this month.  Since bottoming out in April at 41% lower than historic averages, traffic returned to pre-pandemic volumes the week of June 7th, one week earlier than previously forecast.  Based on current forecasts, Urgently expects traffic to continue to increase, reaching as much as 130% of historic volumes by mid-July.

Urgently recently conducted the “Summer 2020 Transportation & Travel Intentions Survey,” with its results suggesting, “All indications are that we will see a substantial increase in vehicular travel as the US economy opens, and beyond,” per Chris Spanos, CEO.

Coupling that reality with past fatality statistics, “It may be best to put the liquor — and motorcycles — away this Fourth of July holiday,” recommends Forbes’ contributing writer Tanya Mohn.  Per annual average, more people die in motor vehicle crashes on Independence Day than any other day of the year, with motorcycles and alcohol being the biggest contributors to the death toll.

An average of nearly 120 lives are lost in crashes in America on July 4th, making it the most consistently deadly day of the year, according to analysis released by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a nonprofit financed by the insurance industry.  The data was compiled from the five most recent years of available federal fatal crash data.  Independence Day is by far the deadliest for motorcyclists, with an average of 26 deaths.

Alcohol was a factor in a greater proportion of crash deaths on New Year’s Eve/Day than July 4th during the five year study period, however, an average of 47% of the deaths on July 4th  involved at least one driver, pedestrian or bicyclist with a blood alcohol concentration above the legal limit.

“If every driver buckled up and every motorcyclist wore a helmet, no one was impaired by alcohol, and everyone drove the speed limit, we could make July 4th and every day safer on the road,” Adrian Lund, IHHS president, said in a statement.

The National Safety Council, a nonprofit advocacy group, estimated that 466 people may be killed and an additional 53,600 may be seriously injured in motor vehicle crashes on the holiday this year, the highest predicted number of deaths the council has released for a three-day Independence Day holiday period since 2008. The group is calling on drivers to defy the odds and to take control of their own safety.

To help ensure a safe holiday, the council has issued a series of recommendations — from encouraging seat belt use and a total ban on cell phones to staying engaged with your teens’ driving habits. A survey by the group found that many parents are more inclined to loosen household driving rules during the summer.

Please approach this weekend with appropriate care and caution.

Readers may contact Bill Love via e-mail at precisiondriving@spokesman.com.