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The dog days of August portend the deadliest days on highways

8/2/2013, 1:40 p.m.

Don’t look now (then again, perhaps you should) but tomorrow, August 3, is one of the ten deadliest days of the year on the nation’s highways and byways, advises AAA Mid-Atlantic. Historically, August remains the most deadly month for travelers hitting the road.

August has accounted for more lives lost on the highways than any other month of the year across the nation. The month holds four deathly days for highway users: August 3, August 4, August 6, and August 12, according to the American Safety Council. Its nearest rival for this dubious distinction is July, which contains three of the 10 deadliest days of the year on the highway.

Over 100 fatal crashes happen per day in the United States, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA, and August is a particularly dangerous time to be on the roads. In terms of highway fatality risks, August ranked as the second most deadly month in Virginia last year, when 74 persons died and 5,801 people were left injured in motor vehicle traffic crashes. Yet by the slimmest of margins August lagged only behind May and July, which were tied for first place with 79 fatalities each, or four more highway deaths than the sultry days of August.

Traffic safety advocates, including AAA Mid-Atlantic, say the odds of being involved in a fatal crash escalate in the eighth month of the year because more people are on the highway on vacation and on weekend trips and also traveling greater distances than any other time of the year. The deadly days are at their zenith.

“The summer driving season may soon seem to be coming to an end but the reality is that many people are packing up for their last minute summer vacations before children begin packing their backpacks for the school year,” said Martha Mitchell Meade, AAA Mid-Atlantic manager of public and government affairs. “Travelers should exercise caution as they enter the roadways in the next few weeks and throughout the Labor Day holiday as more motorists will be on the road, increasing their chances of involvement in a fatal crash.”

Over 10,000 crashes (10,062) occurred on Virginia highways last August. That is an average of 325 motor vehicle crashes per day leading to 2.3 fatalities and 187 injuries daily in August, according to data from the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

History shows that seven of the deadliest days of the summer driving season fell between Aug. 1 and Labor Day, since many travelers across the nation take longer road trips in the month of August. Statistically, the more miles driven increase the chances of becoming involved in a motor vehicle crash.

Virginia is certainly no stranger to the ranks of fatal crash statistics. In 2011, the Commonwealth rose through the ranks as the 16th deadliest state to drive according to NHTSA. Should your drive include driving through the District of Columbia your chances of being involved in a fatal crash is even higher. Texas was number one followed by California and Florida as the deadliest states to drive, and Virginia’s neighbor, North Carolina ranks among the top 5.

Why August? The numbers speak for themselves and so does the odometer. The annual per capita vehicle miles traveled (VMT) has declined for the eighth year in a row since 2004. Both the monthly per capita VMT rate and the fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles of travel (VMT) normally reach their highest levels of the year during August, according to research by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and NHTSA. Traditionally, “The Dog Days of Summer” run from July 3 to Aug. 11. Six of the deadliest days of the year fall within this time span.