Along with warmer weather and longer days, the summer holiday season also brings with it an increased rate of motor vehicle accidents. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), drivers are statistically more likely to be involved in a car crash during the summer than at any other time of the year. June, July and August are consistently peak months for motor vehicle collisions, with the highest number of fatalities occurring in August.
A 24-year study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that 29 percent more Americans die in fatal collisions during the summer months of the year than in the winter. Summer holidays seem to be particularly deadly, with 594 auto accident fatalities occurring nationwide over July Fourth weekend in 2019 and another 448 deaths over Labor Day weekend that same year.
If you or a family member has been involved in a motor vehicle accident and sustained injuries as a result, you may be entitled to compensation for medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Call the Omaha car accident lawyers at Berry Law to learn about your options.
Why Are Car Accidents More Common During the Summer?
Many people choose the summer holiday months to vacation, taking off work to spend time with family and friends while they can enjoy the nice weather. This puts additional vehicles on the road during the summer as people make cross-country trips, or even just get out more during the day. Since the height of summer travel season runs from Memorial Day thru Labor Day, with the Fourth of July sandwiched in between, it makes sense that traffic collisions and fatalities increase along with warmer weather and summer holiday weekends.
The consumption of alcohol may also play a part in the higher number of car accidents, especially on the weekends leading up to Memorial Day, July Fourth, and Labor Day. Over a three-year period, 1,343 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes during Memorial Day weekend. In addition to impaired drivers, warm, sunny weather may simply cause motorists to feel overly confident behind the wheel, leading to mistakes and risky decisions like speeding.
Finally, vehicles must share the road with others who are trying to enjoy the season as well, including bicyclists, motorcyclists, and pedestrians, who are more vulnerable to the effects of a collision with a larger, heavier vehicle.
What Might Contribute to a Summer Car Accident?
There are several contributing factors that play into the increase in motor vehicle accidents over the summer holidays including:
As Americans travel over the summer holiday, more people are on roads and highways overall. Situated in the middle of the country with major highways running both east to west and north to south, Nebraska sees its fair share of out-of-state drivers each summer. Many of these drivers are unfamiliar with the area and may be distracted by GPS navigation and the uncertainty of driving in a novel location. Be sure to allow extra distance between vehicles to avoid a rear-end collision in the event of a sudden stop.
Driving Under the Influence
The use of drugs or alcohol causes impaired judgement and slowed reaction times amongst drivers. Drivers who operate a vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol put themselves and others on the road at great risk when they get behind the wheel while impaired.
The NHTSA attributes the increase in drunk driving fatalities during the summer to drivers spending more time on the road, increased consumption of alcohol at sporting events, cookouts, and other social events, and more frequent instances of speeding and other reckless driving behaviors.
Motorcyclists, Bicyclists, and Pedestrians
Others hit the road in the summer to enjoy the weather as well, including motorcyclists, bicyclists, and pedestrians. When cars and trucks have to share the roadway with more vulnerable drivers, passengers or walkers, there is an increase in motor vehicle-related accidents and fatalities. Motorcyclists in particular have higher rates of injury and account for a significant number of fatalities each summer.
Students Out of School
Most schools in the United States end in late May or early June. High school students, who overall have less experience on the road, are driving to summer jobs and enjoying their first tastes of freedom to socialize with friends during the summer holiday season. Studies have shown that teen drivers spend almost 44 percent more time during the week driving in the summer than at any other time of the year.
More time on the road means teen drivers are also more likely to be involved in a car accident during the summer months when school is not in session. The period between Memorial Day and Labor Day has been dubbed “The 100 Deadliest Days of Summer” due to the high numbers of fatal motor vehicle accidents involving teenagers during that timeframe.
Approximately 260 American teenagers die in car accidents each summer, a 26 percent increase when compared with other seasons of the year. Younger drivers are more prone to poor decision-making, including driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol and engaging in distracted driving behaviors, like using a cell phone while driving. Teenagers, who require more sleep, but tend to get much less than they need, are also at risk for drowsy driving accidents.
While it’s true that we generally think of weather-related car accidents occurring due to snow and ice, severe Midwestern summer storms and other extreme weather conditions in Nebraska may contribute to an uptick in motor vehicle accidents during the summer. Everything from light rain to hail and thunderstorms can decrease visibility while driving.
Wet pavement, hydroplaning, and flash flooding, all common during the summer, can contribute to loss of control over a vehicle and lead to an accident. Even perfectly sunny days may be hazardous if the sun’s glare blinds a motorist, causing him or her to strike another vehicle or object in the roadway or to lose control of their vehicle and veer off the road.
Hot weather can have a negative impact on a vehicle’s mechanical systems and daily performance as cars work harder to stay cool in the heat. Excessive heat can cause damage to the engine or battery, which are both vulnerable to overheating. A battery that suddenly stops working while a driver is operating his or her vehicle puts them at increased risk for an accident, especially when it occurs in the middle of a busy street or highway.
Worn tires are also a concern during the summer months because extreme temperatures cause tires to expand in the heat, sometimes resulting in potentially deadly tire blowouts and loss of control of the vehicle.
Summer is prime construction season, with crews scrambling to use the good weather to catch up on road maintenance and repair projects that were put off during the winter. Construction-related Lane closures often cause traffic congestion that can lead to rear-end collisions.
In addition to traffic lane closures and changes, detours can be confusing for drivers who are normally accustomed to driving the roads in the area. Confusion and failure to exercise proper care when navigating construction zones, as well as speeding, tailgating, road rage, and distracted or impaired driving contribute to construction zone accidents with greater frequency in the summer.
Construction companies that fail to install the necessary signage to keep motorists safe and informed, along with debris or construction equipment that impedes the roadway are also contributing factors to summer-related motor vehicle accidents.
Summer should be an enjoyable season that allows us to get outside and catch up with each other following a long winter. Nothing can put a damper on your summer holidays faster than being involved in a car wreck. Follow these tips for prevention to keep yourself and your passengers safe on the road this summer holiday season:
- Obey the speed limit and all other traffic safety laws.
- Avoid using a cell phone or other handheld device while driving. Consider investing in a hands-free GPS system or app while traveling.
- Use extra caution while driving in construction zones and during inclement summer weather.
- Follow the regular vehicle maintenance and inspection guidelines for your vehicle, which is especially important during the summer months. Replace or repair defective parts and check your tire pressure frequently with the onset of high temperatures.
- Don’t drive while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Instead, appoint a designated driver or consider using a rideshare service like Uber or Lyft.
- Secure heavy cargo, like bicycles, kayaks, and luggage to avoid the hazard of them flying off of your vehicle into oncoming traffic.
- Always use a seatbelt. Secure all infant safety and car seats inside of the vehicle, following the manufacturer’s instructions for installation. Require children to ride in the backseat of your vehicle.
- Avoid using cruise control during a storm, which can lead to dangerous hydroplaning on the pavement. Never drive through standing water that crosses a roadway. Instead, turn around and find another route.
- Watch carefully for motorcyclists and bicyclists or pedestrians on the shoulder of the roadway while driving. If you ride a bike or walk, wear reflective clothing and follow the safety rules of the road for bike riders and walkers.
To learn more about summer car accidents and prevention strategies, reach out to our firm today.