A record number of people are expected to hit the roads this Memorial Day holiday weekend, especially having missed many activities last year while sitting home through the COVID pandemic. The AAA of Western and Central New York, along with New York State Police, remind the public that the holiday weekend also marks the start of what it calls the "100 Deadliest Days of Summer" for teen drivers.
Prior to the 2020 bringing lockdowns and stay-at-home orders, fatal crashes involving teen drivers had increased by 17 percent over a five-year period. Factors included speeding, impaired driving, driver distraction and driver inexperience.
James O'Callaghan of New York State Police, speaking Thursday, said seat belt compliance has been good among motorists, and since the arrival of ride-hailing services in New York State, DWI cases had declined by about 10 percent. But there is one upward trend that continues to concern law enforcers - distracted driving.
O'Callaghan suggests parents need to get more involved in educating their kids about the dangers of distracted driving, and examine some of their own habits.
“Parents, I cannot stress enough, you need to put down your phone,” he said. “You need to be the example, because someday that child in your car will drive. And it doesn't matter what you tell them, they're gonna do exactly what you did.”
The pandemic lowered but did not eliminate driving while impaired last spring. There were 260 DWI cases and six fatalities in Western New York last year, according to State Police.
“We want to make sure the nobody drives impaired because that is obviously detrimental to people, you know, going through this holiday weekend,” O’Callaghan said. “We've already had a fatality last night. And it's one of those things that you can't go back in time. And people have to live with these decisions. So with that being said, we always make sure that we push this high visibility, we will be out there, it should not come as a surprise to anybody this Memorial weekend.”
The AAA anticipates more than 37 million people will travel 50 miles or more between today and Monday.