With Labor Day Over, Year’s Deadliest Season Wanes

Summer Driving in Nevada

It has come and gone, that last gasp of summer revelry, that box on the calendar that tells white pants “You shall not pass!” until next spring: Labor Day. This annual holiday, observed on the first Monday of the month of September, is notable for several reasons. It is also, according to experts on fatal car crashes, one of the bookends of a deadly season for automobile accidents.

As we have discussed before, Memorial Day is the annual holiday – observed in May each year – that marks the start of the summer social season. (That is, it is not the start of summer as an astronomical matter – or even as a matter of weather, as any northern Nevadan who has lived through a gusty or even snowy Memorial Day can attest!) From this holiday in late May flow the various observances of summer:  the end of the school year, graduation ceremonies, the Fourth of July, and even the so-called August Recess observed by Congress most years. At the end of this string, bookending it on the terminal end, is Labor Day. The holiday “is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers,” and it is generally seen as the end of the period of summer outings and a time to return to the toils of work for an extended period before the winter holidays begin. [1]

The Tail End of the “100 Deadliest Days”

According to the American Automobile Association (AAA), the roughly three-month period between Memorial Day and Labor Day marks the “100 deadliest days” during each year when it comes to fatal road accidents. While the precise dates vary from year to year – Memorial Day is observed on the last Monday in May, and Labor Day is observed on the first Monday in September – the period between the two is often very close to 100 days. AAA reports that in the five-year period from 2013 to 2017, teen drivers were especially affected during this period. Some 3,500 teen drivers – roughly 700 per year – lost their lives during this perilous stretch of time. [2]

A number of considerations make teen drivers more likely to suffer from injuries or even death in car accidents over this period:

  • General lack of experience with driving
  • Incomplete development of the frontal lobe of the brain, which affects judgment
  • Significantly increased time on the road (i.e., over this period relative to the rest of the year, when teens spend much of their time in school and related activities)
  • Speeding
  • Consumption of alcohol or drugs
  • Distracted driving
  • Fatigue or sleepiness

Statistics compiled by an AAA-affiliated research arm indicate that half of teens surveyed admitted to speeding in a residential area in the last 30 days, and some two-fifths did so on the freeway. More than half admit to reading a text message or other digital message while driving, and about two in five have sent such messages in the last 30 days. [3]

A Risky Holiday on its Own

While it may mark the end of an annual period of heightened risk for teen drivers, Labor Day itself is not without its own deadly risk profile. Two facts that are mainstays of virtually any American holiday combine, as they so often do, in a problematic way around Labor Day. Since most holidays are now observed on Mondays, three-day weekends abound. This length of time is tempting for the “weekend warrior” to take to the road as early as possible on Friday afternoon and try to make it back home Sunday evening to maximize recreational time without sacrificing work-week productivity. Nothing beats car travel for flexibility, so many families elect to travel this way even though the risks of automobile travel make it the deadliest form of travel (per passenger-mile) of any mode of transport. [4] Thus Labor Day – like any other three-day-weekend period – is a time when more cars are on the road. (And those drivers are not just out for a cruise; they have a purpose, and that sometimes leads to more aggressive driving tactics overall.)

Add to this the fact that many Americans celebrate holidays with alcohol, and you have a dangerous combination and a recipe for potential disaster. According to the National Safety Council – a nonprofit organization committed to the mission of eliminating preventable deaths – some 400 people will die nationwide in automobile accidents over this Labor Day holiday. [5] Many of those deadly accidents will involve alcohol, which is precisely why they are preventable deaths. It is widely known that consumption of alcohol impairs judgment, slows reaction time, and makes it more difficult to translate intent into precise biomechanical movement. When drivers get behind the wheel with an excess of alcohol in their systems, they are significantly more likely to lose control of their vehicles and cause accidents that can harm themselves, their passengers, and others on or near the roadway.

We all count ourselves lucky to have survived another Labor Day, and indeed another potentially deadly summer driving season. We all must work together to create a safer network of roads and highways, and we must take responsibility for our own safe driving is where that begins. If you or a loved one have been harmed by the unsafe driving of another person, contact an experienced personal injury lawyer for guidance on recovering damages from a car accident injury.

[1] http://www.dol.gov/general/laborday/history

[2] https://newsroom.aaa.com/2019/05/aaa-reveals-key-deadly-behaviors-for-teen-drivers-as-100-deadliest-days-begin

[3] https://newsroom.aaa.com/2019/05/aaa-reveals-key-deadly-behaviors-for-teen-drivers-as-100-deadliest-days-begin

[4] https://injuryfacts.nsc.org/motor-vehicle/holidays/labor-day

[5] https://injuryfacts.nsc.org/motor-vehicle/holidays/labor-day

Benson and Bingham