FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Statement by Cathy Chase, President, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates), on End-of-School-Year Events and Memorial Day Weekend Driving
(Washington, DC-May 19, 2023) With proms, graduation parties, the upcoming Memorial Day weekend and vacation travel, this is an exciting time of year for families and a busy time on the Nation’s roadways. AAA projects 37.1 million people in the U.S. will drive on Memorial Day weekend, an increase of more than two million over last year. That means more potential serious crashes. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), from 2011-2020, an average of over 410 people died in motor vehicle crashes each year during the holiday weekend.
As motor vehicle crashes and related fatalities continue to climb, we urge caution behind the wheel for all drivers. In addition, Advocates calls on the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to move quickly to require proven lifesaving technology in new vehicles and for states to adopt comprehensive traffic safety laws to protect all road users.
While teenagers drive less than all but the oldest individuals, their numbers of crashes and crash deaths are disproportionately high. This is especially so during the summer months. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), 2,738 teenagers (ages 13-19) died in motor vehicle crashes in 2020, seven percent of all motor vehicle crash deaths.
Teen novice drivers are more likely to be involved in fatal crashes because they lack driving experience and tend to take greater risks. Compared to more experienced drivers, teens are not as skilled at recognizing hazards and reacting appropriately, resulting in more loss of control. Teens tend to speed, follow too closely, underestimate speed and stopping distances, and are less likely to buckle up. According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, based on the stage of their brain development, adolescents are more likely to act on impulse, get into accidents of all kinds, and engage in dangerous or risky behavior.
The spring and summer months are full of celebrations, but also full of dangers on our roadways. According to NHTSA, during the 2020 Memorial Day holiday travel period, 406 people died in alcohol-related crashes, equaling over 40 percent of the fatalities during that same time. According to IIHS, impaired driving prevention technology could save more than 9,000 lives a year in the U.S.
Federal and State Action Needed
With each passing day that the U.S. DOT delays completing the vehicle safety rulemakings mandated in the 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA, Pub. L. 117-58), lives are at risk. This includes issuing minimum performance standards for advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) (i.e., automatic emergency braking (AEB), blind spot detection (BSD), lane keeping assist (LKA)), impaired driving prevention technology, and other crash avoidance systems. U.S. DOT must move immediately to issue comprehensive rules for these advances to improve safety for teens and all road users.
Additionally, states need to upgrade their graduated driver licensing (GDL) and impaired driving laws. GDL laws introduce teens to the driving experience gradually by phasing in full driving privileges over time and risk settings. Optimal GDL laws have multiple components, including restrictions on nighttime driving and non-familial teen passengers as well as requirements for the minimum age for permits and licenses, and supervised driving. No state has a comprehensive GDL law. Moreover, only 24 states and D.C. have both all-offender ignition interlock and open container laws.
We encourage state lawmakers to continue to advance needed highway safety laws. Advocates’ 2023 Roadmap to Safety provides a comprehensive blueprint for local, state and federal actions needed to ensure all road users safely arrive at their destinations. Spring and summer events including high school year-end celebrations and vacation travel make important and happy memories. They should not be shattered by tragedies that could have been avoided.
While Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial kickoff to summer, it marks a time to honor those who served in the Armed Forces of the U.S. and gave their lives for our Nation. Advocates honors their memories and extends our deepest gratitude to their families.
Contact: Helen Jonsen