Fatal motor vehicle accidents spike on many major holidays in the U.S., including the Fourth of July. Some of the main reasons are fairly obvious. In part, the increase in accidents happens simply because more vehicles are on the roads. AAA expects 40.8 million people to travel more than 50 miles as they celebrate the day with family and friends.
The extra vehicles on the roads are only part of the answer. Alcohol also plays a role in many accidents over the Fourth of July. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), about 31 percent of all fatal motor vehicle accidents in 2010 involved drunk drivers. But 38 percent of accidents over the Fourth of July weekend involved drivers who were legally impaired.
In Illinois, 13 people were killed in fatal car accidents over the Fourth of July holiday period in 2011. Nine of those involved a driver who had consumed alcohol, or 69 percent. These numbers are different than national numbers because Illinois includes drivers with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of greater than .01, while the national statistics include drivers with a BAC of at least .08.
The percentage was just as high in 2010, when seven in 10 fatalities involved alcohol. In 2009, five of 11 fatalities over the Fourth of July involved alcohol.
The spike in fatal accidents, particularly drunk driving accidents, often prompts law enforcement authorities to increase enforcement during the holidays. To keep yourself and others safe in Naperville and other Chicago suburbs this year, find a sober driver if you plan to drink and use caution on the roads.
Sources: Fatal motor vehicle accidents are common on the Fourth of July; Illinois Department of Transportation, “Illinois Crashes During Holidays 2005-2011,” September 2012