Contrary to popular belief, summertime, not the winter, is the most dangerous time for driving, with the Fourth of July weekend often being the deadliest.
If you thought blizzard season posed the most traffic perils, you're not alone. An overwhelming 83 percent of Americans consider winter to be "the most dangerous season to be driving on rural roadways," according to a survey released today.
Only 8 percent believe summer is the most dangerous time. Four percent found spring the most dangerous time, and 4 percent see fall as the most perilous for hitting the roads.
However, about one-in-three traffic 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. The Fourth of July is often the most dangerous driving day of the year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Crowded rural roads and holiday-related drinking are among the many factors that contribute to the danger.
"Americans' sense of seasonal driving risk is skewed," said Tom Horan of the University of Minnesota's Center for Excellence in Rural Safety (CERS), which conducted the survey. "We are wary of winter driving, but let our guard down during summer holidays, when fatalities are most likely to occur."
Rural roads are particularly hazardous. While U.S. Census figures show that about one-in-five (21 percent) Americans live in rural areas, the Federal Highway Administration has found that about six-in-10 (57 percent) of highway deaths occur on roads that it considers rural.
Lighter traffic and pleasant scenery on rural roads can lull drivers into a false sense of security. This can lead to motorists driving at unsafe speeds, as well as driving while distracted, fatigued, unbelted or impaired, all of which increase the likelihood of a crash. Additionally, emergency response time to a rural crash and hospital transport times can be lengthy and thus jeopardize survival rates. Crash victims are five to seven times more likely to die from their injuries if they don't arrive at a trauma center in the first half-hour following a crash.
Today, CERS also 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 rural areas from 32 states were included in the Top 100, the states with the most "hot spots" are Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Mississippi, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.
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