Millions of Americans pack up their cars every Fourth of July to hit the beach or visit a trendy metropolis.
And annually, Kentucky State Police prepare for one of the most dangerous – and sometimes deadly – holidays on the calendar.
“During any holiday period, traffic goes up,” KSP Trooper Daniel Priddy said. “Usually, we do have more collisions with more motorists on the roadway, especially nowadays with people on their cellphones distracted.”
Independence Day celebrations often involve the use of mind-altering substances during the holiday period, defined this year as Wednesday through Sunday.
During the 2017 Independence Day holiday period, 237 people were killed in drunk-driving crashes, accounting for 39 percent of the holiday’s traffic deaths, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which considers “buzzed driving” as “drunk driving.” That year, there were 10,874 people killed in alcohol-impaired driving crashes – the equivalent of one fatality every 48 minutes.
Whether drinking or taking drugs, NHTSA recommends planning for a designated sober driver, public transportation or a ride service.
The other increasingly worrying form of impaired driving is texting, which the NHTSA considers the deadliest form of distracted driving. If you’re driving 55 mph and take your eyes off the road for five seconds, the average time it takes to send or read a text, it’s like driving blindly for the length of a football field, according to the NHTSA.
KSP will deploy extra officers on the major interstates, highways and other roadways to monitor for impaired drivers, seat belt use and speeding during the holiday period.
“During this time, leave early, take your time, and make sure you’re paying attention to the roadway” and other drivers, Priddy said.
The American Automobile Association predicts a record-breaking 48.9 million American travelers during the holiday – including an estimated 41.4 million drivers.
Based on AAA Travel bookings for Independence Day, the top destinations included Orlando, South Carolina beaches, Virginia Beach, Niagara Falls, Washington, Las Vegas, New York City, Miami, Chicago and Tampa.
AAA expects to rescue nearly 367,000 motorists on the roadways this year – usually from dead batteries, flat tires and lockouts – and recommends that folks make sure their vehicles don’t need maintenance before leaving home.