Deadlier July 4 Forecast as Saturday Adds to Risk

July 2, 2015

This Fourth of July weekend will probably be deadlier than usual on U.S. roads because the holiday falls on a Saturday this year, and more people are driving as the economy improves, a safety group said.

There will be 49,500 injuries and 409 deaths tied to traffic accidents from 6 p.m. on July 2 until 11:59 p.m. on July 5, the National Safety Council said in a statement. That would be the highest number of fatalities for a three-day Independence Day holiday period since 2008.

“More people are on the road, putting more miles on the car, and it’s likely that’s going to result in more fatalities this Fourth of July,” Ken Kolosh, the council’s manager of statistics, said Monday in a phone interview.

Falling unemployment rates and lower gas prices than a year earlier have led to an upward swing in traffic fatalities, Kolosh said. As the economy improves, more people can afford to take car trips. Miles traveled on U.S. roads increased by 3.9 percent in April 2015 from the same period last year, according to the most recent data from the Federal Highway Administration.

Traffic-related deaths over the holidays are primarily because of drinking or drug use, and failing to use a seatbelt, Edgar Figueroa, a California Highway Patrol officer, said in a phone interview.

Deadliest Nights

“With everyone celebrating, it’s easier to consume alcohol in quantities you wouldn’t usually drink,” he said. “People need to get home or to a friend’s house, and they think they’re fine, but that’s just not the case.”

Weekends from late May through early September tend to be among the most dangerous times on the road in in the U.S., with six of the 10 deadliest nights of 2013 occurring on Summer Saturdays, according to the council.

There were 405 deaths in the 2011 weekend when the July 4 holiday celebrating U.S. independence occurred on a Monday, and 365 in 2010 when it occurred on a Sunday. In 2013, the event was on a Thursday, and the council didn’t have data available for 2014.
The council recommends that motorists reduce their speed, refrain from mobile-phone use and pick a designated driver.

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