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Weekend Dangers: Safety in Numbers

Wed, 05/24/2023 - 18:33


One the eve of what may be the busiest weekend of the year, it seemed worth looking into the sense among East End locals that it is best to stay home as much as possible until after Memorial Day. It turns out they are correct, but it is not just the holiday weekends to watch out for — year round, nearly half of all traffic deaths in the United States take place between 6 p.m. on Friday and 5:59 on Monday morning.

Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration from 2021 and 2022 indicate that May is the second most dangerous month, accounting for 46 percent of motor vehicle fatalities. Only July and October had more, tied at 48 percent. Think of it this way: Close to half of crash deaths occur on essentially two days of the week. There is safety in numbers of a statistical sort, if one takes what they tell us to heart.

The kinds of roads on which lives are lost is surprising. The N.H.T.S.A. provides a comparison between urban roads and everything else, which it calls “rural.” In terms of miles driven, streets and highways outside of the nation’s cities — roads a lot like here — had more than two times the fatality rate of those in urban areas. Put another way, drivers and their passengers are significantly safer on interstates than anywhere else — including here. Night driving had only a slightly higher risk of death in the years reported. Speeding was a factor in nearly a third of the fatalities.

In addition to speeding and alcohol, distracted driving remains near the top of all accident causes. In 2021 there were about 362,415 people injured in motor vehicle crashes and more than 3,500 killed in incidents involving distracted drivers; of the total killed, 644 of them were walking or on a bicycle. Cellphones are most often blamed, but according to the N.H.T.S.A., a little more than 400 people in the United States died in crashes involving a driver using a phone; the rate of driver-caused fatalities was highest among those aged 25 to 34 — nearly a third of the total. Other forms distraction can take include something moving inside a vehicle, adjusting climate controls or music settings, and eating behind the wheel. Even conducting a conversation with a hands-free system came with an increased risk of a crash.

It turns out that the tendency of residents to hunker down between Friday evening and Monday morning means a lot more than avoiding annoyances — it could be a matter of life or death. Please be careful out there, friends.

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