Distracted driving

Road Risk Alert: The rise in holiday travel sparks an increase in distracted driving on July 4th

June 20, 2024

As we gather to celebrate the Fourth of July, the roads get busier and more dangerous. Distracted driving causes this increased risk — CMT data shows a notable spike in distraction on Independence Day. CMT data also reveals that July is the most distracted month of the year. 

Compared to the days immediately before and after July 4, 2023, the Fourth of July sees elevated levels of distraction for almost every hour of the day. It starts before the sun rises, at 4:00 a.m. By 6:00 a.m., distraction is already 14% higher than the surrounding days. Early morning driving is usually quieter, with fewer vehicles on the road, which might give drivers a false sense of security. With fewer obstacles and less traffic, some may feel more comfortable using their phones while driving, leading to increased distraction.

The situation gets worse at 7:00 a.m., with distracted driving 24.6% higher than other days, the biggest difference throughout the day. This spike likely correlates with people starting their holiday journeys. Whether heading to a cookout, a pool party, or a beach day, the early rush can lead drivers to check directions, communicate with others, or simply pass the time with their phones, leading to a higher rate of distraction. These behaviors speak to the importance of preparing routes, music and other audio entertainment, and activating Do Not Disturb While Driving before departing.

Distracted driving remains high throughout the day. The only time distraction matches or drops below normal levels is in the evening, from 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m., when many people are enjoying fireworks displays. At 11:00 p.m., distraction on July 4 is nearly 8% higher than other days.

July is already the most distracted month of the year, and the Fourth of July falls within the “100 Deadliest Days,” a period marked by a higher rate of teen auto fatalities. According to AAA, 50.7 million Americans traveled 50 miles or more during the 2023 Fourth of July weekend. In 2023, distracted driving increased by 2.75% the week of the 4th of July compared to the surrounding weeks, rising from 2 minutes and 7 seconds to 2 minutes and 11 seconds. With so many people on the move, the roads are congested, and the temptation to use phones or other distractions while driving increases.

The statistics speak to the heightened dangers. Between 2017 and 2021, 1,460 drivers were killed on US roadways on July 4th. Since 2020, distracted driving has increased on average by 4.7% on the Fourth of July. This surge in July 4th distraction has led to 630 additional crashes, 355 injuries, 3 fatalities, and an economic impact of $25.1 million since 2020.

This increase in distraction coincides with a broader rise in risky driving behaviors. For instance, speeding also surges by 26.3%, further compounding the dangers on the road. The combination of distracted driving and increased speeds creates a perilous environment for all road users. The urgency to reach holiday destinations, coupled with the thrill of the celebration, often leads drivers to exceed speed limits, reducing their reaction time and increasing the severity of crashes.

Stay Independent of Distractions

The Fourth of July should be a time of celebration and joy, not one marred by crashes and injuries. Understanding the patterns and causes of distracted driving can help us take preventive measures. By staying focused on the road, avoiding distractions, and adhering to speed limits, we can make our Independence Day travels safer for everyone.