Like most folks, I eagerly await the joy and relief of a long Labor Day weekend and the kickoff of football season. Here’s some important ways to keep it a safe holiday for all to enjoy. First, I share some grim statistics—and then important ways you can avoid becoming one.
The Sobering Effect of A Good Cause: Traffic Deaths Spike in 2015
Luckily, our quality of life has improved after the harsh economic downturn the past few years. But the recovery has had an unexpected negative effect: According to an August 24 article in the Spartanburg Herald-Journal, South Carolina has endured 100 more traffic deaths this year than this time last year. Authorities attributed it to more people taking to the highways, a trend fueled in part by lower gas prices. And more folks are driving larger vehicles, which have longer stopping distances and cause more serious crashes.
Spartanburg and Greenville are two of the most deadly counties in our state. The Herald-Journal reports Spartanburg ranked second in 2015 traffic deaths, with 47. Greenville was third with 41. Only Horry (Myrtle Beach) had more.
Driving safely is vital on Labor Day weekend. In a press release, the National Safety Council estimates car crashes will kill 395 people and seriously injure another 47,800 this weekend—the most deadly year since 2007.
The Four Biggest Factors for Traffic Crashes
These seem obvious, but it’s clear that not everyone is getting the message. According to Highway Patrol spokesman Lance Corporal Bill Rhyne, the biggest factors in crash casualties are:
- Drinking and driving
- Seatbelt use (or, rather, failure to use seatbelts)
- Distracted driving
We’ve talked about the dangers of distracted driving before.
To help keep you safe this weekend, here are some tips gleaned from a variety of sources and from my own experience.
Driving Safely: What You Can Do
- Don’t drink and drive. That means no alcohol. Designate a substance-free driver.
- Buckle up. Still need convincing? Over one-third of this year’s statewide traffic deaths involved motorists without seatbelts. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that in 2014, the 13 percent of motorists without safety belts accounted for over 44 percent of traffic deaths. Don’t think “Click It or Ticket”—think “Live or Die.”
- Obey speed limits. The fun will be there when you get there, unless you don’t. Speed kills.
- Don’t drive distracted. Drivers have one job: getting everyone there safe. One job. Both hands on the wheel, both eyes on the road, at all times. Don’t use a cellphone—not even hands-free. This is a lethal distraction. Don’t use anything else that takes your attention away from driving…that includes using maps or your GPS device.
- Map your trip before you leave. This decreases stress and distraction while driving.
- Don’t follow too close. Tailgating is letting someone else drive for you, except they’re not. The South Carolina Drivers Manual recommends a three- to four-second distance between cars, measured by noting the car in front passing an object, then timing when you reach it.
- Drive rested. Fatigued driving can be as dangerous as drunk driving. Tired drivers drift into other lanes and slam into the back of other cars. It’s deadly at highway speeds. Take a break or change drivers if you’re tired.
- Beware the gas gauge! It should be a no-brainer, but apparently it’s not for me. The last time my family went to see my parents, we ran out of gas. In the middle of nowhere. On a hot day. With two infants in the back seat. And our six-and seven-year olds asking why we stopped. Thankfully, we found a guardian angel nearby. I call him “Saint Ryan.” I don’t ever want to count on a guardian angel in the middle of nowhere on a hot day again. I don’t want you to, either.
- Don’t drink and drive. Buckle up. Don’t speed. And just drive. Really. We mean it.
Be Safe So You Can Have Fun
These statistics prove driving is not a holiday. It’s work. Make your goal arriving safely. Because when we take to the roads, our biggest responsibility is everyone else. Here’s hoping you have a long, safe, joyful weekend with your family and friends this Labor Day.