Did you know that August is the most dangerous time on our roads? So that got me thinking (and researching) on the most dangerous days and seasons to drive. If you’re reading this, obviously you made it through the treacherous month of August- Congrats!
The Most Dangerous Time to Drive
Auto accidents kill more than 40,000 people in the U.S. each year; they are the No. 1 cause of death for people between the ages of 1 and 34, and account for more than 75% of all Emergency services in the ER and police! Crazy right? Well, driving is one of the most dangerous things a person does on a daily basis.
So it’s so surprise that the time of day you drive, simple distractions or even unsafe behavior contribute to higher accident rates…but why does the time of month matter? The simple answer is that getting behind the wheel of a car is the riskiest thing people do every day, however since fatal car crashes happen in “ones and twos” scattered across the country, the general public doesn’t realize that it equates to about 110 people per day, nationwide! Now that’s a dangerous statistic!
So it’s up to us, to look at how and when fatal accidents occur and try our best to stay off the roads at the most dangerous times, as well as make sure we’re focused solely on the road regardless of if we’re driving in dangerous conditions or not. A good example of how distracted some drivers get is the new Ford Commercial. I’m sure you’ve all seen it. They make people sit in a room and watch the screen, creating severe distractions, and keep their eyes on the screen. Well, obviously it’s much harder than it seems!
Behind the Startling Numbers
To compile my list of the most dangerous times to drive, I consulted with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, as well as AAA’s Foundation for traffic Safety. You can find out more information by clicking on the links -at the bottom of this article, and researching on your own…however, what I found is pretty surprising:
Time of day plays an important role in evaluating fatal car crashes, in no small part because other dangerous factors are actually compounded at night. Did you know that the instances of drunk driving, speeding, and driving without a seat belt are all significantly increased during the night-time hours and each one contributes directly to increased fatality rates?
Speeding is a factor in about 30% of all fatal crashes according to the NHTSA website. Eighteen percent of fatal car crashes during the day are alcohol-related, while a whopping 54% of crashes at night are directly related to alcohol.
A concerning number, 49% nationwide, of fatal crashes happen at night with a fatality rate per mile of travel about three times as high as daytime hours. Of people killed at night, roughly two-thirds aren’t wearing seat belts! However, during the day, the percentage of unrestrained fatalities tends to be about half of that percentage (about 24.5%). Could this be caused by general carelessness? Or do people not understand that wearing a seat belt can actually save your life? Either way, those statistics are not only concerning, but severely unknown by drivers on the road.
In 2007, the fewest deaths by crash happened early in the morning between 4 a.m and 5 a.m. Those hours see significantly less traffic – only about 9% of the average amount during peak hours. Mid-week days like Tuesdays and Wednesdays also see the lowest number of fatalities, both days averaging fewer drivers and 96 and 100 deaths per day. Those are still startling numbers however, why aren’t these statistics known to drivers on a daily basis?
Weekends- when the greatest number of people are driving- predictably see the highest numbers of crash victims, with a combined average of 143 deaths for Saturdays and Sundays. This statistic comes from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Again, you can see all of this information for yourself, respectably, on their websites. (I’ll attach links at the end of this blog for you all to see!)
Simple Steps to Driving Safety
Driving experts say it’s the simple things that can lead to enhanced driving safety: wearing a seat belt, driving the right speed for the road conditions, and paying attention to the road. In fact, most of these very things are neglected by drivers involved in accidents.
Ninety-five percent of crashes are caused by human error, says Rae Tyson, a spokesman for the NHTSA, but 75% of drivers say they’re more care than most drivers. Ironic right? “I think that people in some instances have a false sense of their own abilities and therefore, their abilities to multitask,” Tyson says. “Since most of those crashes are a result of human error, somebody’s got to be making most of the mistakes.”
According to AAA, 82% of drivers say distracted driving is a serious problem, but more than half say they talk on a phone while driving and only 14% admit to reading or sending texts while driving. Don’t people realize that it’s simple to pull over, read or send the text message, and then continue driving? That could drastically lower the amount of crashes from distracted cellphone drivers!
While only 75% of drivers report that speeding is a serious problem, but 20% say they have driven 15 miles over the speed limit on the highway, and 14% say they occasionally do the same on a neighborhood street. This is concerning! Why are people speeding? Is it that they’re running late to work or some other obligations? My mom always instilled in me that no reason, absolutely none, is worth speeding and dying in a crash. It’s a simple of sending a text (not while you’re driving) to whoever or wherever you need to be, that you’re running late…rather than kill someone or consequently getting into an accident and not showing up at all!
Winter is a great time, full of families getting together, fun building snowmen, and who can forget about Christmas and New Years? But driving too fast for the weather conditions plays a major role in fatal car crashes each year, espically during the winter months.
The NHTSA‘s Tyson says that speed is the single greatest contributing factor to serious car crashes- not so much the violation of a posted speed limit, but rather when drivers ignore weather or traffic conditions that require a reduced speed.
“It’s a significant factor,” Tyson says. “If you’re on a icy, slippery road and it’s posted speed limit of 55, if you’re going 40, you may be going too fast!”
Snowfall obviously makes for dangerous road conditions. But fatalities actually drop across the nation during days with high amounts of snow, probably because more people stay at home and partly because they tend to drive slower under inclement weather. The only exception? The first day after a major snowstorm-it takes about a day or two for drivers to regain their sense of driving in the snow.
Researchers have evaluated 1.4 million fatal car crashes are attributed to weather conditions from 1975 to 2000. They also found that fatal car crashes were 14% more likely to happen on the first snowy day of the season compared to subsequent snow falls throughout the season. Why is that? Well, out here in Boise, Idaho, we don’t normally get a ton of snow fall. So the first snowfall is a pretty big deal…and therefore, our Idahoan drivers aren’t prepared (mentally) for driving in the snow, espically on that first snowfall. I joke that even the emergency vehicles won’t go on the roads, but the fact of the matter is, that it’s even difficult for them to drive.
More Often Than Not, It’s the Driver, Not the Car.
My findings reinforce the idea that the most car crashes don’t involve mechanical failures on the part of the car. Even though there are always technological improvements or preventative safety features and signs on the roads, a lot of it comes down to human error…and it’s hard to change that, but to the extent that we can, that would probably avoid most car crashes.
It’s good advice to keep in mind. While you might not be able to limit all this coming winter’s driving to Tuesdays at 5 a.m., you can do what the statistics recommend: Wear your seat belt, focus on the road- not your phones or screaming kids, and above all, stay in control!
Links for more information:
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration – Check out their Driving Safety tab at the top! There is a multitude of great information from Aggressive Driving to Disable drivers, and even Older Drivers which can reinforce all the information herein.
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety– A great read is their Alcohol-impaired driving topic. Make sure to read through, all of their information is as current as 2015, however, most of their studies with the best results are from 2012-2014 when most of the information is available. This website also has a ton of great topics for you to read through to continue to be safe on and off the roads!
AAA’s Foundation for Traffic Safety – click on the research link at the top and you can find a mulitude of studies that are completed and ongoing/current projects. A Really great find is the “Distracted Driving” Which coincides with this article amazingly.
– The Car Girl.