The unofficial start of summer is here: Memorial Day. And travel is expected to bounce back from last year in a big way. Experts are expecting to see the biggest surge in getaway traffic since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic with more than 37 million Americans planning to travel away from home. That’s a 60% increase from last year, according to AAA. And, according to the same source, Denver is among the top 5 road trip destinations this weekend.
Although this year’s travel forecast is projected to be 6 million fewer than in 2019, those staying close to home are still planning on celebrating. Events are making a comeback, bars are open at full capacity, backyard barbecues and pool parties are on the itinerary, and as arguably one of the busiest weekends for outdoor activities, Coloradans will be jumping at any opportunity to ease their cabin fever.
Those responsible for keeping people safe around the state are ringing their alarm bells. In 2020, there was a 3% increase in traffic deaths despite far fewer people on the road. To date in 2021, there have been 193 deaths on Colorado roadways, a 12% increase in traffic deaths compared to this time last year. So as this Memorial Day shapes up to be the biggest taste of freedom people have enjoyed since the pandemic started, road safety advocates are urging people to act responsibly, and local law enforcement agencies are ramping up their efforts to keep people safe on the road.
On Monday May 24th, in advance of the “100 Deadliest Days of Summer”, the 100 day period between Memorial Day and Labor Day that historically marks a significant increase in traffic fatalities, the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), the Colorado State Patrol and 43 local law enforcement agencies throughout the state began the largest seat belt enforcement period of the year. The Click It or Ticket campaign reminds drivers and passengers to make safety their priority and to buckle up every trip. The campaign will run through Sunday, June 6. Mother’s Against Drunk Driving (MADD) are also joining forces with local agencies to remind people to wear their seatbelts and encourage people to not drink and drive.
No matter your plans this weekend or this summer, be prepared with these 5 safety tips before heading out:
Inspect your vehicle
Before hitting the road, make sure your vehicle is safe to drive. Heat and humidity can cause an engine to overheat or a tire to lose pressure, among other dangers. Vehicle owners should check their oil, fluid levels, wiper blades, all exterior lights, and make sure their tires are in good condition and properly inflated.
Prepare before you go
Plan your route and be familiar with the roads and highways you will be using to avoid getting lost in unfamiliar areas. It’s also important to select an alternate route in case of road closures or traffic jams. Make sure to have your insurance information and emergency contact numbers in case of an accident. Prepare an emergency roadside kit to take with you, including snacks and water, and don’t forget to include an extra portable cell phone battery charger so you can plug in your phone even if the car doesn’t work. Consider printing out directions or a map in case reception is scarce and know where rest stops and gas stations are along your route.
Speeding is a factor in more than a quarter of all traffic fatalities. Don’t exceed the posted speed limit. Warm, sunny days means more pedestrians, bicycles, and motorcycles out on the roads and streets. Those who choose these means of transportation or recreation are far more like to suffer sever or even fatal injuries because there is little to no structural elements that protect them from harm. In Colorado, cyclists and motorists have an equal right to use public roadways so know the law, obey the traffic rules, and pay attention to people who are walking and biking.
Stay focused & alert
Distracted driving has become one of the leading causes of traffic fatalities in the United States. Put your phone away, never text and drive, find a safe area to have a snack and stretch, and dial the music volume to a reasonable level.
Do not drive impaired
Alcohol is only one cause of impaired driving. Drugs, including opioids, marijuana and some over-the-counter medicines, can impair by causing drowsiness, altering visual functions, and affecting mental judgment and motor skills. Arrange for alternate transportation if you plan to drink.