MADISON, Wis. – The emergency room is no place to spend the final holiday weekend of the summer.
Millions of people will be traveling on Labor Day weekend by car across the United States, according to a recent survey by AAA. About 32% of the country’s population will travel this weekend, and 82% of them will do so by motor vehicle.
That is a lot of opportunity for something to go wrong on the road, according to Dr. Hee Soo Jung, trauma surgeon, UW Health, and associate professor of surgery, UW School of Medicine and Public Health.
“Roads are expected to be jammed with travelers, so we all need to do our part to keep each other safe on the highways and byways,” he said.
Alcohol consumption is also common during summer holiday weekends, and a primary factor for automobile crashes any time of the year, Jung said.
From January to June this year in Dane County, for example, there were 80 automobile crashes involving alcohol, which is 41% more than the five-year average, according to the Dane County Traffic Safety Commission, a coalition of public and private organizations working to improve traffic safety.
While alcohol is part of the culture in Wisconsin and elsewhere, that doesn’t mean it needs to mix with driving, Jung said.
“Enjoy the holiday responsibly, designate a driver, or don’t drink if you plan to drive later that day,” he said. “Your holiday will be much more enjoyable if you don’t have to spend it in the emergency room because of a vehicle crash related to alcohol, or perhaps have an even worse outcome.”
Drinking is a high-profile risk to holiday travel, but there are other factors that can lead to wrecks on the road, Jung said.
In addition to keeping your vehicle in good working order, avoid all of these known contributors to crashes while driving this weekend: driving impaired by medications, drowsy driving, distracted driving and speeding, he said.
“Wear a seatbelt, know when to take your medications before driving, keep distractions to a minimum, be well rested and obey traffic laws so you can get to your destination safely,” Jung said. “Bottom line, we must take care of each other on the road and that starts before getting behind the wheel.”
Jung is available for interviews today, and a recorded interview is also available.