September is the deadliest month for traffic fatalities and October is a close second, according to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal. The article reviewed two independent studies that found late summer/early fall to be the riskiest for US traffic deaths, and late winter/early spring to be the least dangerous time to be on the road.
Sivak Applied Research analyzed data from 2009-2018 and found that, per billion miles driven, September had 12.3 traffic fatalities and October had 12. By contrast, at 10.3, March was 19 percent lower than the late summer/early fall months. The nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found a similar pattern when studying fatalities from 1998-2014. On average, there were 14.2 traffic fatalities per billion vehicle miles driven in September. Both studies used data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Federal Highway Administration.
Looking at the raw numbers, the daily death count for September averaged 112. August and July were slightly higher, however, the ratio of deaths to miles driven pushed September to the top. Data showed that most crashes happen between 3 p.m. and 9 p.m. Traffic fatalities are more common on weekends than weekdays, and on holidays. In the Insurance Institute study, on average, 139 lives were lost each Saturday. The Fourth of July and Labor Day holidays also saw spikes in traffic fatalities. With the exception of New Year’s Eve, the winter months generally saw a decrease in fatalities, possibly because people are driving more slowly, noted the researchers.
More than 35,000 people die in vehicle crashes each year. Identifying when those fatalities occur may help, noted a statistician with the Insurance Institute. Seasonal factors, such as the change in daylight, may contribute to crashes. When it gets dark earlier in September, the article noted, that could pose problems for younger drivers with less experience and older drivers who have difficulty seeing.
The COVID-19 lockdown will likely affect the data going forward, added the statistician. “We might not see the drop in vehicle miles traveled that normally happens around this time,” he said. “It’s something people should be aware of and maybe drive more carefully.”
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