Memorial Day Holiday Period Could be Deadly for Hundreds of Road Users

Though a decline compared to last year’s estimate, more than 400 people may lose their life in a preventable crash this upcoming weekend.

May 20, 2024

WASHINGTON, D.C. – While this upcoming weekend unofficially marks the end of spring, it also kicks off a series of dangerous summer holiday periods; the first being Memorial Day. This year, 418 people may die in a motor vehicle crash over the Memorial Day holiday period, which begins Friday, May 24, at 6 p.m. and concludes at 11:59 p.m. on Monday, May 27. According to National Safety Council analysis, this estimate is an 11% decrease compared to last year’s and comes just a week after more than 170 traffic safety advocates descended upon Capitol Hill to meet with federal legislators during Infrastructure Week to urge for the prioritization of safety in the next reauthorization of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. 

“Infrastructure that supports a Safe System approach is key to improving our roadways and advocating for it, as we did last week in Washington, can have great impact,” said Mark Chung, executive vice president of roadway practice at NSC. “There’s no question infrastructure plays a significant role in traffic safety, but so does driver behavior. This coming holiday weekend and always, NSC calls on all road users to put safety first to prevent crashes and save lives.”

At a press conference on Capitol Hill last week, NSC released new survey findings revealing adults in the U.S. are concerned about their safety and the safety of family and friends on the roads, which makes staying safe even more personal. Drivers can share the road responsibly by following these safety tips:

1. Prepare before you go: Before hitting the road, make sure your car is safe for driving. Vehicle owners should check the oil, put air in the tires, and check for and repair open recalls. Visit ChecktoProtect.org to see if your vehicle has an open recall, and get it repaired for free.

2. Buckle up: Lack of seat belt use is a top cause of fatalities in crashes. Buckle up, while also making sure you have appropriate car seats installed correctly.

3. Designate a sober driver or arrange alternate transportation: Holidays are a cause for celebration, but alcohol is only one cause of impaired driving. Drugs, including opioids, marijuana and some over-the-counter medicines, can cause drowsiness, alter visual functions and affect mental judgment and motor skills.

4. Slow down: Speeding is a factor in more than a quarter of all traffic fatalities. Drive the speed limit or below it if conditions dictate. Be sure to pay close attention to those walking and biking in order to keep all road users safe.

5. Drive distraction-free: Thousands have died in car crashes involving cell phone use. Put your phones away and #JustDrive. 

6. Look before you lock: Pediatric vehicular heatstroke is still the leading cause of non-crash motor vehicle-related fatality for children. In 2023, 29 children in the U.S. are reported to have died because of this completely preventable tragedy. Always check your back seat for children or animals when you reach your destination.

7. Demand safer roads and safer speeds: Join the Road to Zero Coalition to learn about the Safe System approach on road safety. Elements of safer roads include rumble strips, protected bicycle lanes, clearly marked crosswalks, roundabouts and much more. Roadway design influences motor vehicle speed, which has profound implications on crash severity for all road users. 

Review supplemental information about the Memorial Day holiday fatality estimates and additional motor vehicle data and research at injuryfacts.nsc.org.  

About the National Safety Council
The National Safety Council is America’s leading nonprofit safety advocate – and has been for 110 years. As a mission-based organization, we work to eliminate the leading causes of preventable death and injury, focusing our efforts on the workplace, roadway and impairment. We create a culture of safety to not only keep people safer at work, but also beyond the workplace so they can live their fullest lives.

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