Many Americans are in the midst of preparing for a long Memorial Day weekend. According to the nonprofit National Safety Council, the holiday's name is grimly ironic, as accidents and fatalities are set to soar.
For more than a century, the Council has kept tabs on safety stats in America's workplaces, in homes, and on the roads. Based on current trends, the organization believes that this Memorial Day will be one of the deadliest in years.
The Council's predictions are based on the improving U.S. economy, paired with low gas prices (the lowest in 11 years) and low unemployment rates. Combined, those factors suggest that a significant number of Americans are planning a bit of R&R away from home this weekend.
That forecast is echoed by AAA, which estimates that 38 million Americans will travel this weekend--700,000 more than last year, and the second-highest number on record, bested only by stats from 2005. Out of those 38 million, 34 million, or 89 percent, will get to their destination by car, 2.1 percent more than last year.
As a result, the number of traffic accidents and fatalities is expected to climb. The Council predicts that 439 people will die on U.S. roads this weekend, with another 50,500 seriously injured. America hasn't seen that many fatalities since 2009, when 462 deaths were recorded.
The Council has a list of suggested for road-trippers to keep them safe this weekend. You're familiar with them, no doubt, but they bear repeating:
- Making sure every passenger buckles up every trip. The Council estimates 104 people could be saved this Memorial Day holiday if they buckle up.
- Designating an alcohol and drug-free driver or arranging alternate transportation
- Getting plenty of sleep and taking regular breaks to avoid fatigue on long trips
- Never using a cell phone behind the wheel, even hands-free
- Staying engaged with your teens’ driving habits. An NSC survey found many parents are more inclined to loosen household driving rules during the summer.
- Learning about your vehicle’s safety systems and how to use them. MyCarDoesWhat? can help drivers understand the ins and outs of features such as adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, blind spot warning systems and backup cameras.
And AAA has a list of the most popular destinations for Memorial Day travelers. If you're heading to one of these hotspots, it's probably too late to change your plans, but at least you can prepare yourself for the traffic around the corner:
- Myrtle Beach
- Washington, D.C.
- New York
- San Francisco
- Los Angeles
- South Padre Island
Be careful out there.