Although 83 percent of Americans think winter is the most dangerous season for driving, summer – specifically the Fourth of July weekend – actually claims that title, a recent University of Minnesota study found.
Between Friday and Monday, traffic accidents resulted in five deaths, according to the Minnesota State Patrol website.
These statistics are consistent with the study, released recently by the University’s Center for Excellence in Rural Safety.
The three major summer holidays – Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day – see a “disproportionate share of fatalities,” said Tom Horan, research director for the CERS and the study’s leader. Between January and March, however, there aren’t similar holidays “causing a spike.”
This year’s Fourth of July weekend was less deadly than in previous years. Over the past three years of Fourth of July weekends, Minnesota saw 18 deaths from car accidents, 14 of which were alcohol-related.
More crashes happen in urban areas because of bumper-to-bumper driving, but fatalities are lower in these areas. In 2009, about 68 percent of all fatal crashes
in Minnesota happened in rural areas, according to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety.
The Federal Highway Administration has found that about 57 percent of all U.S. crashes occurred on rural roads in 2007.
While driving on rural highways, people feel more comfortable using their cell phones, eating, falling asleep and drinking and driving, according to the survey.
People travel less frequently and tend to self-regulate more in the winter, Horan said. People also tend to drive more cautiously because of inclement weather in the winter, he said.
In 2009 there were 73,498 traffic accidents in Minnesota, a 7 percent decrease from 2008, and the number of deaths, 421, was the lowest since 1944, according to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety. Half of the deaths occurred on weekends.