The Fourth of July is a day to celebrate the country’s hard-won independence, and to remember what it is that makes America great. It engenders a sense of patriotism like no other holiday. It also has a much more dubious distinction: it kicks off the deadliest time on roadways in Missouri and across the nation, the time between Independence Day and Labor Day.

According to data provided by the Missouri State Highway Patrol (MSHP), 17 people died this year in fatal car accidents during the long Independence Day holiday weekend (Thursday, July 4 through Sunday, July 7). There were more than 350 car accidents, 157 injuries sustained in those auto accidents and nearly 200 people arrested for driving while intoxicated (DWI) throughout the same celebratory period.

Why is summer so deadly?

The summer is the busiest time for accidents for several reasons:

  • The state’s volatile summer weather that can dramatically change conditions in a matter of minutes
  • Increased highway traffic because of family road trips, vacationers
  • Higher numbers of drunk drivers
  • Higher rate of teen drivers, many of whom are inexperienced, distracted, unable to handle traffic conditions, driving erratically, or speeding

Staying safe

Knowing how treacherous Missouri’s roads can be, is there any way for drivers and their passengers to remain safe while out and about this summer? Actually, yes. There are several ways in which motorists and vehicle occupants can help lessen the chances of a crash that causes catastrophic injuries or one that tragically results in the wrongful death of innocent victims.

For example, making a commitment to avoid driving distracted (by technological devices, grooming, eating, drinking or having highly animated conversations with passengers can help, since this bad habit significantly reduces a driver’s ability to focus on the road ahead. The multiple benefits from paying attention to your surroundings while behind the wheel are well worth the time you spend taking care of those distracting tasks before you leave or after you arrive at your destination.

Another key in preventing auto accident injuries is wearing a seatbelt. The MSHP reports that in 2011 (the most recent year for which such data is available), wearing a seatbelt cut a vehicle occupant’s – drivers and passengers alike – risk of death in half. Similar reductions were seen in the rate of serious injuries and minor injuries. The data is clear: seatbelts save lives.

No matter what the circumstances, if you or a loved one has suffered a debilitating injury or a wrongful death due to a careless driver, speak with an experienced Missouri personal injury attorney to learn more information about your legal rights for holding the responsible parties accountable for their actions.