By Eric Pilgrim | Fort Knox NewsMay 24, 2019
Weather forecasters are predicting record heat leading into this year's Memorial Day weekend. Already, ticks are finding human hosts and mosquitoes are beginning to surface. Thousands of Army ROTC students are preparing to travel to Fort Knox for Cadet Summer Training.
At the same time, installation families are preparing for their summer vacations, outdoor excursions and moves. People are coming; people are going. At the forefront of Joe Colson's mind during all this activity is safety -- 101 critical days of it.
"This week starts the Memorial Day weekend, which will be about three to five days for most people," said Colson, the Fort Knox Safety officer. "As we travel, I'm asking drivers to drive safely and be cautious of other drivers because there will certainly be a number of inattentive drivers on the roadway."
Colson said many factors account for the numerous accidents that occur during the busy vacation weekend. One of those factors is alcohol.
A May 15, 2019 AAA article estimates that nearly 43 million Americans will be traveling to vacation spots on the roadways over the Memorial Day weekend this year. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration charts traffic movements over six holiday periods, revealing that peak driving times each year occur between Memorial Day and Labor Day--the period Department of Defense officials call the 101 Critical Days of Summer.
Because of this peak, many police forces also implement Click It or Ticket programs during both holidays to reduce the number of deaths due to traffic accidents.
The National Safety Council revealed in 2016 that of the Memorial Day weekend fatalities that occurred, 36% of them were the result of alcohol impairment. In 2017, they represented 29%. While national trends reflect a downward movement in deaths, Memorial Day weekend still leads all other holiday weekends in that total by almost 10 percentage points.
Another big issue during the Memorial Day weekend is what Colson calls distracted driving. Distracted driving constitutes anything from applying makeup to finding radio stations to the biggest accident causer -- cell phone use.
With so much traffic and so many distractions at play, the conclusion adds up to about 380 fatalities annually, according to the National Safety Council -- 380 in a 3.25-day period. The number of fatalities predicted is actually lower than in several previous years, including 2005 when it peaked at 512.
Colson said that's still 380 too many, so he has made it his mission to reach the Fort Knox community with the message of safe driving as a result.
"The fact is, it is estimated that 148 fatalities may be prevented this Memorial Day holiday if the seatbelt is used. Another 90 lives can be saved if all passengers utilize their seatbelts while traveling," said Colson. "If we can reach 10 drivers, I believe we can affect the safe driving behaviors of 10,000."