Labor Day weekend is at hand, and as gas prices slide back down many of us are prepping to get on the road.
AAA Michigan expects 1.2 million of us to be driving somewhere this holiday weekend, the most since 2008.
The Michigan State Police have been tracking road accidents and deaths for some 40 years, and the numbers say that Labor Day is our deadliest holiday.
An average of 20 people die in traffic over the three-day weekend.
Lt. Michael Shaw tells us that this increased rate of traffic deaths can largely be attributed to the idea that Labor Day is sort of a last hurrah for the summer, and that gets many more people on the road than during other holidays.
“There’s a lot more traffic on the freeway system and on some of our secondary roads,” he says. “[It] just makes it worse, just by the amount of vehicles that we have out on the roads.”
He tells us that another major player is alcohol.
Six of the seven fatal traffic accidents that occurred during last year’s Labor Day weekend were directly attributable to alcohol consumption, according to Shaw.
“And that’s the one thing that’s 100% preventable,” he tells us. “If you don’t drink and drive … you will not be involved in an alcohol-related crash.”
But Shaw tells us that alcohol isn’t the only thing that keeps people from driving safely.
“I always call it my ‘cheeseburger campaign,’ but it’s distracted driving,” Shaw says. “People get so technically involved with other things going on, that they forget that their primary job is to drive that vehicle.”
Shaw says he sees people doing all sorts of things besides driving while they’re behind the wheel.
“Eating and driving. Changing your radio station. I’ve seen people with their iPad propped up on the steering wheel and watching a movie off of Netflix,” he says.
Shaw encourages drivers to avoid drinking before getting behind the wheel, and to really pay attention to the job of driving.
If we can accomplish those two things, he tells us that we’ll be a lot better off in terms of traffic fatalities both this weekend and year round.
– Ryan Grimes, Stateside