According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) statistics going back 40 years, the deadliest months of the year, for drivers and pedestrians alike, have been the “vacation months” — July through October. Of the year’s four deadliest holiday weekends, three occur in summer, and the fatal crashes involve higher-than-average numbers of alcohol-impaired drivers. Here, for example, were the nationwide statistics for 2015:
Despite the fact that traffic volume typically is far higher during the day than at night, more than a third of all fatal crashes occur during the dusk/night/dawn hours. And probably not by coincidence, drivers involved in nighttime fatal crashes are far likelier to be alcohol-impaired than those involved in daylight fatal crashes – nearly 60% in the midnight-to-3 a.m. time period, versus fewer than 15% in the noon-to-3 p.m. time frame.
For pedestrians – whether they’ve stepped out of their cars on the roadside for some reason or whether they’re just traveling on foot — the traffic fatality numbers associated with low-light conditions are truly alarming: The hours of night (74%), dusk (2%) and dawn (2%) together yield 78% of all pedestrian fatalities. Along with the 5,376 pedestrians killed by vehicles in 2015 (amounting to 15% of all vehicle accident fatalities), some 70,000 were injured.
This campaign is timely because the 4th of July Weekend consistently ranks as one of the deadliest times to be on the road, and other summer holiday weekends (Labor Day and Memorial Day) also rank very high.
Nighttime safety is particularly critical. Despite much lower traffic volumes at night, more than 1/3rd of all fatal crashes occur during the hours of dawn, dusk and nighttime. And nighttime crashes tend to be more serious than daytime crashes: In the evening hours (6 p.m. to 6 a.m.), the fatality rate (per 1,000 crashes) is more than double the daytime rate, rising to nearly 4 times the daytime rate for crashes occurring in the after-midnight hours.
A significant number of those killed are classified as pedestrians, people who are struck and killed while not in vehicles – whether they were traveling on foot or had simply gotten out of their cars (e.g., because of a fender-bender or a breakdown). 5,376 pedestrians were struck and killed by vehicles in 2015, according to NHTSA figures, and nearly 8 in 10 of these fatalities occurred when light was poor: 74% at night, 2% at dusk, 2% at dawn.
When a car becomes disabled at night it is a much more dangerous situation then during the daylight hours, and pedestrians, whether they are occupants who have stepped out of their cars or people traveling on foot by the roadside, are in particularly acute danger at night. Having a good light source to make oneself visible to traffic is a basic safety measure.
What is ideal is a flashlight that has a traffic/safety wand attached – a translucent plastic cone that fits over the flashlight’s head and glows when the light is turned on. A red color traffic/safety wand is generally best for roadside safety. Most people have seen light wands at airports, where ground crews routinely use them to guide planes into and out of gates; and they are used by many police departments to direct traffic. A flashlight with a traffic/safety wand should be considered an essential item of safety equipment for every vehicle, and should be carried by everyone who walks by the side of a road at night.
Having a traffic/safety wand, and knowing some basic safety tips, would assist in saving lives in emergency roadside situations.
A series of statistics about the dangers faced by both drivers and pedestrians during the “vacation months,” and a series of life saving tips to avoid becoming a statistic of roadside dangers, is available at the National Roadside Traffic Safety Awareness web page at www.nrtsa.org. Additionally, MAGLITE will be offering Flashlights, Traffic/Safety Wand, and Mounting Brackets through the www.maglite.com website.
Be sure to always carry roadside safety kits for emergencies. Your kit should include:
If you must walk in busy roadside conditions:
Walk on a sidewalk or path when one is available. If no sidewalk or path is available, walk on the shoulder, facing traffic, as far away from the traffic lane as you can get. Never assume a driver sees you; try to make eye contact.
Drivers don’t see as well at night so if you must exit your vehicle, wear reflective materials or use a flashlight, ideally with a traffic/safety wand, to alert other drivers to your presence.
 National Center for Statistics and Analysis (2017), Traffic Safety Facts 2015, Report No. DOT HS 812 384, Washington, DC, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (hereafter “Traffic Safety Facts 2015”), p. 64.
 Traffic Safety Facts 2015, p. 45, Table 14.
 Traffic Safety Facts 2015, p. 105.
 Traffic Safety Facts 2015, p. 67, Table 26.
 Traffic Safety Facts 2015, p. 73, Figure 12.
 National Center for Statistics and Analysis (2017, February). Pedestrians: 2015 data. (Traffic Safety Facts, Report No. DOT HS 812 375). Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. (Hereinafter “Pedestrian Safety”). See chart and text on p. 2.
 Pedestrian Safety, p.1.
 Traffic Safety Facts 2015, p. 114, Fig. 21.