Most Americans mistakenly assume winter roads are the most dangerous. But this coming summer holiday weekend is often the deadliest, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
In a recent survey, the Center for Excellence in Rural Safety (CERS) at the University of Minnesota found 83 percent of Americans consider winter to be the most dangerous season for driving. In fact, one in three fatalities on the road happen in the summer months.
The CERS compiled their list of the Top 100 Summer Rural Hot Spots, naming the rural areas with the most fatalities during the past eight years in the summer months. Be on high alert driving through rural parts of Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Mississippi, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia. These states have the highest number of hot spots.
A few specific roads have had particularly high death counts in past years. These include stretches of I-10 in Arizona and California. California's I-15 in San Bernardino County and I-5, in both Los Angeles and San Diego, also top the list. Other offenders include I-45 in Harris County, Texas, I-15 in Nevada,, I-95 in Palm Beach County Fla., and US-1 in Miami Dade County Fla. (You can check the safety of your route at SafeRoadMaps.org.)
The good news
The good news is our roads are getting safer. In 2009, traffic accidents killed 33,963 people in the United States, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. That's the lowest total since 1995.
On holiday weekends, one of the best ways to avoid accidents is to beat the traffic. The American Automotive Association offers these tips for drivers.
- Begin your travel early, between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m.
- Interstates, especially in and around the major metropolitan areas, are probably going to be busy the entire weekend. The same goes for roads leading to major attractions such as amusement parks, state and national parks, beaches and resorts.
- On the night of July 4, travelers should prepare for heavy traffic conditions on roads and interstates leading to major fireworks displays.
Deadliest in the world
Traveling outside the country? Roads abroad aren't any safer.
The greatest risk when traveling abroad is not random terrorist acts , says Bonnie Ramsey, researcher for the Association for Safe International Road Travel. It is risk of being involved in a road crash.
Road crashes are the greatest non-medically-related cause of death for Americans traveling abroad, according to the U.S. State Department.
For example, hairpin curves, constant fog and floods , and a deadly, half-mile deep precipice on the Old Yungas Road in Bolivia send one hundred people plummeting over its edge each year. In 1995, the Inter American Development Bank named the road which is nicknamed by locals El Camino de la Muerte or Road of Death the deadliest road in the world. Even though a new, safer road runs parallel to the Yungas, people still chose to take the life-threatening drive.
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