This past Monday marked the celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, often referred to as MLK Day. MLK Day is a federally recognized holiday in the United States commemorating the birth of Martin Luther King, Jr., one of the most famous leaders of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in 1968, and MLK Day was signed into law by President Reagan in 1983 (it was first observed three years later). Some states resisted the holiday initially, and it wasn’t until the year 2000 that all 50 states celebrated the holiday.  This federally recognized holiday continues to be celebrated nationwide.
Many people consider MLK Day as an opportunity to remember the work and vision of Martin Luther King, Jr. by serving their communities. Universities host lectures, schools plan learning opportunities, and many read up on the works of this great man and the movement he helped lead. Many communities, schools, and organizations plan service projects for this holiday. One opportunity in the Reno area includes a project by the Truckee Meadows Parks foundation cataloging all living things in the park to better understand the local ecosystem. This year in Las Vegas there was a parade to commemorate the occasion; opportunities for training to act as an advocate for foster children, hosted by CASA of Las Vegas; a project sorting clothing hosted by the Women’s Resource Medical Center; and an opportunity to help feed and clothe the homeless, hosted by the Durango High School Philanthropy Club. While these events were organized as single-day ventures, many volunteer opportunities advertised in association with MLK Day were available on an ongoing basis for those looking to make more lasting changes in their communities. 
In addition to representing an opportunity to serve local communities, MLK Day is a paid vacation for many workers. As with any three-day weekend, many Americans may choose to celebrate not with volunteer work, but with a short trip out of town. After all, one extra weekend day makes a mini-vacation much more leisurely. As a result, on extended weekends there may be many more drivers on the road, for example those coming back from ski trips and snowy mountain cabins. These drivers may be distracted by family or may have trouble navigating unfamiliar roads, leading to potential hazards and accidents.
As far as three-day weekends go, MLK Day is not the most hazardous time to be on the road. This is because the holiday is observed in mid- to late January, when few people take vacations and much of the country is cold. Memorial Day is notorious for being the most dangerous for drivers. There are a disproportionate number of injury accidents on Memorial Day weekend. This could be due in part to the pleasant weather encouraging barbecues and day-drinking. Between 2011 and 2015, there was an average of 312 fatal accidents in the United States on this single weekend. If you look at the population of Nevada relative to that of the United States as a whole, one would expect to see approximately three auto fatalities in Nevada over this three-day weekend alone. 
MLK Day does not have the dangerous reputation of Memorial Day weekend. The emphasis for most people is on personal reflection and community service, rather than on barbecues, social drinking, and travel. However, MLK Day is always recognized on a Monday, meaning that it creates a three-day weekend and an opportunity for people to drive out of town. Keep this fact in mind as you head out on your own weekend adventures or business around town.
While MLK Day may not be known for the alcohol-related auto injuries of Memorial Day or the Fourth of July, it comes with its own potential hazards. Unlike many other popular three-day weekends, MLK Day takes place in January. There may be fewer intoxicated drivers on the road, but the roads themselves are more likely to be icy and dangerous to drivers. In Reno, the average low temperature in January is only 25 degrees Fahrenheit – well below freezing.  The low in Las Vegas is higher, but it does still occasionally drop below the freezing point, creating the potential for icy roads.  Couple this with a population that is unaccustomed to driving in any kind of inclement weather, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster in the form of injury auto accidents.
When driving in high-traffic situations – when more or unfamiliar drivers may be on the road – make sure to practice defensive driving. Stay calm in stressful driving situations and give yourself extra time to arrive safely at your destination. Take a safe route and map out where you are going ahead of time. If you are driving long distances, check to make sure your vehicle is in good working order before hitting the road. Most importantly, make sure to keep your focus on the road and away from distractions, like food, radio, and cell phones. 
If you do find yourself in an injury accident over a holiday weekend (or at any time), stay calm and carefully assess the situation. Document the event using your cell phone camera and gather information from witnesses at the scene. Don’t say that you are all right, even if you think you are uninjured at the time of the accident. If you are experiencing any pain or discomfort, be sure to seek medical attention immediately.  Finally, make sure you understand your rights by contacting a licensed personal injury attorney.
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