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August: The deadliest month on the road

Gina Roberts-Grey

If you’re driving between 3 p.m. and 9 p.m. any day of the week in August, be careful. That’s the deadliest time of day during the deadliest month of the year on American roadways.

Why that time of day and why that month?

Statistics from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety show 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. is the deadliest time to be on the road in any month. In 2009, according to the institute, 32 percent of traffic deaths happened between 3 p.m. and 9 p.m. Russ Rader, a spokesman for the institute, says a large number of crashes happen in the late afternoon and early evening in general, but especially in August.

As for August, it’s an especially busy month for motorists. Aside from your everyday commuters, you’ve got families on vacation, visitors to zoos and amusement parks, college kids moving back to campus … You get the picture.

“The odds of a crash are great because more people are out on the road driving more miles than other times of the year,” Rader says.

In August 2009, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2,864 people died in U.S. traffic accidents. That’s down almost 300 from August 2008. Nonetheless, August remains the deadliest month on the roads.

So, how can you stay safe on the road in August?

  • Stay off the road between midnight and 3 a.m. Sunday. That’s a time when a lot of drunken drivers are leaving bars and parties.
  • Pick a Tuesday for your drive. Just about any time on a Tuesday is relatively safe. In 2009, a total of 3,909 people died on American roads on Tuesdays — the lowest number of any day of the week, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Wednesday was the second least deadly day on American roads in 2009, with Monday in third place.
  • Hit the road between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m. That’s when the lowest number of fatal crashes occurs, since there aren’t many people on the road when a lot of us are tucked safely in bed.
  • Slow down. In 2009, speeding was a factor in 31 percent of car crash deaths, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
  • Wear your seat belt. Among people age 13 and older who died in passenger vehicles in 2009, just 40 percent of drivers and 44 percent of passengers were belted, the institute says. “If everyone buckled up on every trip, we would sharply reduce the number of fatal crashes that we expect to happen this summer,” Rader says.
  • Don’t drink and drive. Drunken driving deaths accounted for 32 percent of all traffic fatalities in 2009, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

“It’s common sense, but obeying the speed limit in addition to wearing seat belts and not drinking and driving can have significant results,” Rader says.

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