There are some driving risks that exist year-round. Whatever the day, if someone is on the road and driving fatigued or intoxicated, the risk of getting into a serious accident is high. This daily risk is heightened during holiday weekends when there are simply more people on the road, which includes more drunk drivers on the road. In the summer, however, the risks of facing these impaired drivers can increase significantly. This is not only because of the heightened risks of dehydration or driving drowsy, but also because of Independence Day and Labor Day weekends. In fact, nationwide, July 3 and July 4 have been among the top 10 deadliest days on the road due to DUI crashes.
If you're taking a road trip this summer or driving for the holidays this season, here are some dangers and risks to watch out for.
When Drunk Driving Accidents Peak During the Summer
According to Pennsylvania's Department of Transportation (DOT), there is an average of 24 to 25 alcohol-related crashes each day throughout the year. During summer holiday weekends, the number of such crashes can spike exponentially. Also of note, in 2022, ten percent of Pennsylvania's car crashes that occurred on holidays were due to alcohol, but alcohol-related crashes accounted for 33% of the fatal accidents that took place over the holidays.
According to PennDOT, in 2022 there were:
- 232 DUI crashes with 10 deaths over Independence Day weekend (112 accidents occurring just on July 4)
- 333 alcohol-related crashes and 12 deaths over Labor Day weekend (103 crashes just on the day of)
As terribly high as those numbers are, they represent a significant drop from 2021, when there were:
- 2,871 alcohol-related crashes, resulting in 48 people dying over Independence Day weekend (886 accidents happened on July 4th alone)
- 3,016 alcohol-related crashes and 37 deaths over Labor Day weekend (with 945 crashes just on the day of)
Even though there was a significant drop in these DUI-related crashes and deaths from 2021 to 2022, these summer holidays still present a much higher-than-average risk of getting into an accident with a drunk driver.
If you're driving during the holidays, it's often best whenever possible to drive while the sun is still out. Most alcohol-related crashes in Pennsylvania happen between 8:00 PM and 4:00 AM.
Dehydrated Driving Can Be As Dangerous As Drunk Driving
If you're on a long road trip, you may want to limit the number of times you have to stop for a bathroom, refraining from drinking water in order to keep putting miles behind you. However, this is especially dangerous to do during the summer, where the heat can drain you, leaving you feeling thirsty, lightheaded, and fatigued. While dehydration is a health risk on its own, if you're behind the wheel of a car, this dehydration can put others at risk as well.
How disastrous is dehydrated driving? According to research published by Physiology & Behavior, just mild dehydration caused a clear uptick in driving errors committed, especially during long drives. In fact, the type and severity of errors committed while drivers were dehydrated was comparable to the impaired driving of someone who is legally drunk.
If you're thirsty, have a dry mouth, or are feeling lightheaded or a headache coming on, it's not safe to ignore it. It's vital that you stay hydrated so that you can travel safely this summer.
Summer Road Trips & Driving Drowsy
If you're driving home from the airport after a grueling stretch of travel, or you're starting to nod off a few hours into a road trip, it might not seem risky to just keep pushing through to arrive at your destination. But if you're exhausted, this severely limits your alertness and response time, especially if you're driving during the wee hours between 12:00 AM and 6:00 AM, when your circadian rhythm is likeliest to leave you feeling sleepy. If you're on rural stretches of road or on a highway, this also can contribute to your drowsiness.
How serious is driving drowsy? According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there were 684 fatalities from car crashes due to fatigued driving in 2021. The NHTSA also approximates that there were at least 91,000 car crashes in 2017 caused by drowsy drivers, in which there were 50,000 people injured and almost 800 fatalities.
If you only have a short way left to go, pulling over for a 20-minute power nap can help. For longer drives, it's better to travel with someone else who can take shifts or help you stay alert. Or better yet, wait to set out on the road until after you're well-rested. Otherwise, public transportation is the way to go.
Even if you take all the precautions you can to drive safely this summer, the reality remains that others may not be as responsible. If you're in a car crash, then our Pennsylvania auto accident lawyers at Handler, Henning & Rosenberg LLC can help you deal with insurance, recover financial compensation, and move forward. You can call (888) 498-3023 to learn more in a free consultation.