Fatal Motor Vehicle Accidents Are Common On The Fourth Of July

The Fourth of July is a community celebration. Throughout the western Chicago region, people will mark the holiday with barbecues, Naperville's annual Ribfest and fireworks display, boating and many other events. When our bellies are full of holiday treats and our eyes are on bursts of color in the sky, our attention may not be on safety, but Illinois fatal accident statistics show that it should be.

The Fourth of July is one of the deadliest times of year. Fatal motor vehicle accidents spike on most major holidays, including the Fourth of July. The statistics are sobering:

  • In 2011, 13 people were killed in motor vehicle accidents over the Fourth of July holiday weekend. In addition, 875 people were injured in car accidents over that 3.25-day period, according to an Illinois Department of Transportation report on holiday accidents.
  • In 2010, 10 people were killed in fatal accidents over the Fourth of July holiday weekend. In addition, 539 people were injured, according to the report.
  • In 2009, there were 11 fatalities in accidents over the Fourth of July holiday weekend. In addition, 535 people were injured.

More Travelers, More Alcohol

What's behind these accidents? In part, the increase may come from the sheer numbers of people who are driving to vacation destinations or celebrations closer to home. This year, AAA, the national automobile club, predicts that 40.8 million people in the U.S. will travel at least 50 miles from home over July 4. While down slightly from 2012, the prediction is still higher than the 13-year average of 38.9 million travelers.

In addition, alcohol plays a significant role in fatal accidents over the Fourth of July. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 31 percent of total fatal vehicle accidents in 2011 involved drivers who were legally impaired. Of the Fourth of July weekend accidents, 38 percent of fatalities involved drunk drivers, NHTSA data shows.

In Illinois:

  • Nine of the 13 fatalities over the 2011 Fourth of July weekend involved a driver who had consumed alcohol. That's 69 percent. (Illinois statistics include drivers with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of greater than .01; the NHTSA statistics include only drivers with a BAC of .08 or greater.)
  • Seven of the 10 fatalities over the 2010 Fourth of July weekend involved alcohol.
  • Five of the 11 fatalities over the 2009 holiday weekend involved alcohol.

Other Deadly Holidays

Accidents rise during other major holidays as well. As with the Fourth of July, the additional numbers of people and vehicles on the road create an additional risk of accidents.

During Labor Day 2011, there were nine fatalities in Illinois. There were eight fatalities during Thanksgiving weekend, 13 fatalities during the Christmas holiday and nine fatalities during the New Year's holiday.

Whether you are going to a Fourth of July barbecue at a friend's place or a relative's house for Thanksgiving, use extra caution on the road. Make sure you have a safe way home before you begin celebrating. If you will be drinking, make sure you will have a sober driver or another safe way to get home.

If you are involved in a holiday accident, experts say you should stay in your car unless that places you in greater danger, such as with a vehicle fire. Make sure others are safe and call 911. An experienced personal injury attorney can explain your legal options and help you obtain the compensation you need to recover from the accident.