WYOMING — Memorial Day weekend—or, as it is known around these parts, Old West Days—is the official ramp up to the summer tourist season in Jackson Hole. But increased visitation, warmer weather, and the holiday weekend in general bring greater chance of auto accidents.
In fact, Wyoming ranks as the 10th most dangerous state to drive in over the Memorial Day weekend, which is statistically one of the most dangerous holidays of the year for driving.
A Secure Life research team looked at fatal car crash statistics between 2013 and 2017 to determine which states were the safest and most dangerous for Memorial Day driving.
The list of safest states to drive in (with deaths per 100,000 population) was topped by Maine (0.30), New York (0.32), and Illinois (0.37). The most dangerous included West Virginia (1.30), Mississippi (1.24), and North Dakota (1.19).
Wyoming is off to one of the deadliest years for highway fatalities in its history. A crash yesterday south of Worland made 62 deaths on state highways in 2019. That compares to 36 at this time in 2018 and 2017, and 19 to date in 2016.
What has caused the jump in fatal accidents isn’t clear or easily attributable to any one thing, but motorists can do several things to avoid an accident or better their chances in the event of one.
Safe driving tips for Memorial Day
Take care when driving at night
When you drive at night you’re more likely to encounter impaired drivers, so try to plan the bulk of your driving during the day. In Wyoming, travel at dawn, dusk, and night also brings increased wildlife activity. Expect to encounter deer, elk, pronghorn and a variety of other animals on the road with your, even free-ranging cows. If you do have to drive at night, be extra cautious around other drivers.
Speeding gives you less time to react if something like an accident occurs in front of you. Slow down and give yourself more time and space to react to anything happening on the roads.
Keep some extra distance from other drivers and anticipate having to make sudden maneuvers. You shouldn’t tail slow drivers, and you should let aggressive drivers pass. If you come upon any erratic drivers, drive like they can’t see you and keep an exit strategy in mind.
Don’t drive impaired
This should be obvious, but do not drive if you’ve had too much to drink. Plan for someone to be the designated driver if you need to drive on Memorial Day. If you’ve been drinking and you don’t have a designated driver, call a Lyft or Uber. Alcohol greatly increases your risk for car accidents, so it’s best to approach it with a zero tolerance policy.
Wear a seatbelt
Make sure everyone in the car is buckled up whenever you’re driving. It’s such a simple task that greatly reduces your risk for serious injury or death on the road. In fact, 47% of fatal crashes in 2017occurred when the victim wasn’t using a seat belt.
Memorial Day is the third-most-dangerous holiday for travel
Based on ASecureLife data, Memorial Day is the third-deadliest holiday for car travel over the years analyzed with 1,819 fatal car accidents. The Fourth of July was first with 2,151 fatal crashes. Labor Day was second with 1,903 deadly accidents.
Maine is the safest state to drive on Memorial Day
Not only did Maine have the lowest number of fatal car crashes over Memorial Day weekend but it also had the lowest rate of fatal accidents per 100,000 population, making it by far the safest state for driving on Memorial Day.
West Virginia is the most dangerous state for Memorial Day travel
West Virginia accounted for 24 fatal accidents on Memorial Day. While that’s not the highest total by state, it’s the highest rate of fatal accidents (1.3) per 100,000 population. If you’re traveling in West Virginia this Memorial Day, take a look at some of our tips below to make sure you and your family stay safe on the roads.
Maine is more dangerous during the month of May
Although Maine ranks as the safest state for Memorial Day travel, it’s in the bottom half of the safest states for the whole month of May. During the month of May, Maine is the 35th most dangerous state for driving with 5.34 deaths per 100,000 population.
Alaska is safer in May but more dangerous during Memorial Day
Alaska is the seventh-most-dangerous state to drive during Memorial Day weekend, but for the rest of May, it’s actually the 20th safest state for driving.