BOISE, Idaho — Memorial Day weekend marks the beginning of the 100 Deadliest Days, the summertime stretch in which more Idahoans are killed on the road than any other time of year.
The gloomy milestone comes as fatal car wrecks are increasing across the country - despite driving being down due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
According to the Idaho Transportation Department, people driving less does not mean the roads are safer.
A National Safety Council report found car crash deaths nationwide were down when compared to last year, but found a 14% increase in fatality rates across the country per miles driven in March. Idaho fared better, with a fatality rate decrease of 28%, according to the study.
"It is encouraging to see Idaho bucking this trend, but it is important to remember that this report looked at the month of March when Idaho was in its early stages of the stay-at-home order," said ITD Highway Safety Manager John Tomlinson. "We're beginning to reopen the state and we're seeing more cars on the roads right now. Unfortunately, we are seeing fatalities increase as well."
Although it technically falls in the spring season, the Memorial Day holiday is heralded by many as the unofficial start of summer. It is also the beginning of the time when many Idahoans hit the road to go camping or take trips.
According to ITD, 92 of the 224 people killed in car wrecks in Idaho died between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
Already, there have been two dozen fatalities since March 25, with one the last week of March, nine in April, and 14 so far in May.
"What makes summer months so dangerous is in part due to the larger number of vehicles on the roads," said Tomlinson. "We are seeing that correlation now as we look at our crash fatalities from March to April, and now into May as more drivers are out."
Distracted driving and driving under the influence also make the summer stretch more dangerous.
"Every time you get in a car, whether it's a quick trip or a long haul, there are key actions you can take to make it to your destination safely," said Tomlinson. "Be sure to slow down, drive engaged, drive sober, and always buckle up."