Summertime—and the driving’s not easy

U. MINNESOTA (US)—Snowy roads might make for dicey travel, but in reality, summer is the deadliest season to be on the road.

About one-in-three fatalities happen during the three months of summer, a significantly higher fatality rate than the winter months, as well as the overall non-summer rate, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The Fourth of July is often the most dangerous driving day of the year, probably because of crowded rural roads and holiday-related drinking.

“Americans’ sense of seasonal driving risk is skewed,” says Tom Horan of the University of Minnesota‘s Center for Excellence in Rural Safety.

“We are wary of winter driving, but let our guard down during summer holidays, when fatalities are most likely to occur.”

An overwhelming 83 percent of Americans consider winter to be the most dangerous season to be driving on rural roadways, according to a survey. Only eight percent believe summer is the most dangerous time. Spring and fall both were considered the most dangerous time by four percent of respondents.

Rural roads are particularly perilous.

While U.S. Census figures show that about one out of five (21 percent) Americans live in rural areas, the Federal Highway Administration says that about six out of 10 (57 percent) percent of highway deaths occur on roads considered to be rural.

Lighter traffic and pleasant scenery on rural roads can lull drivers into a false sense of security, leading to unsafe driving speeds, and distracted, fatigued, unbelted, or impaired, driving, all of which increase the likelihood of a crash.

Emergency response time to a rural crash and hospital transport times can be lengthy and thus jeopardize survival rate. Crash victims are five to seven times more likely to die from their injuries unless they arrive at a trauma center in the first half-hour following the crash.

CER has released the Top 100 Summer Rural Hot Spots, or the rural areas that have experienced the most fatalities over the past eight years during the summer months. While 32 states have rural areas in the Top 100, the states with the most “hot spots” are (in alphabetical order) Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Mississippi, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia.

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