July 4 likely won’t be as exciting as prior years for most people due to the coronavirus pandemic and the restrictions implemented to curb its spread. But experts are still warning Americans to be extra cautious traveling during what is believed to be the deadliest holiday of the year for drivers.
Independence Day is the most dangerous holiday for travel due to the spike in fatal crashes, according to an Auto Insurance study, as people hit the road to go to barbecues and see fireworks. People also tend to drink excessively on the holiday — which in many cases leads to alcohol-impaired accidents.
The three-year study found that 1,349 people died on Independence Day from 2016 and 2018, nearly 40% of those fatalities occurring in alcohol-impaired crashes.
Due to the pandemic, however, celebrations across the country have been cancelled, and gatherings are being scaled down to accommodate social-distancing.
“While mobility is at near pre-coronavirus levels, that mobility is local rather than long trips. Even if we see an upsurge in traveling for the holiday, it will be much dampened in the past,” Chris Tepedino, an expert who worked on the study, told the Daily Caller.
Rather than host large parties or travel long distances to go to a beach or national park for the holiday, many Americans may instead opt for local events with small groups of friends or family.
“I think people might be wary of large gatherings after watching states that permitted large gatherings like Florida have an upsurge of cases,” Tepedino said. “I think that it’s only natural to look at the number of coronavirus cases growing across the United States for people to really have a higher level of apprehension than even two weeks ago.”
Some beaches are closing over the holiday weekend despite it being one of the biggest tourism weekends of the year due to a surge in cases, including in Galveston, Texas, where beaches will be closed to the public, according to the Houston Chronicle. Florida has also banned alcohol consumption at bars, attributing the rise in cases to young people flocking to drink. (RELATED: Florida Bans Alcohol Consumption At Bars Amid Record High Coronavirus Cases)
“People who want to visit a particular city or even travel within that city as a resident may think twice if that area has coronavirus cases that are rising,” Tepedino told the Caller.
After multiple months of stay-at-home orders, some people may use the holiday as an opportunity to enjoy the warm weather and get a change of scenery — so those traveling should still remain vigilant on the road.
“I think the real source of tension in this discussion has to do with the measures to slow down the coronavirus and flatten the curve,” said Tepedino. “Governments have restricted their citizens mostly to their homes for about three months. Many people want to get out, feel the freedom of the open road, or at least participate in a gathering between their friends of extended family.”
This Independence Day, he adds, Americans may choose to make safer choices than years prior.
“While I don’t think those surges in cases really diminish people’s desires to travel, I think they will force travelers to make other, safer choices depending on how much risk they want to take. This may mean small friends or family gatherings, taking a virtual tour of a city they wanted to visit, or just going to a local park where there might not be many visitors.”