WASHINGTON — If you’re traveling this weekend, expect a lot of company. Nearly 42 million Americans plan to drive 50 miles or more from home — the most since before the Great Recession, finds AAA.
Drivers are urged to be careful. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the Fourth of July is the most danger day of the year for drivers.
Independence Day marks an all too painful anniversary for Walt Rooney. Two years ago his 36-year-old sister Annie — who used to prosecute DUI offenders — was on her way home when she was hit and killed by a drunk driver.
“Our Fourth of July is a visit to the cemetery and it’s horrific,” said Rooney. “It’s not a peaceful visit. It’s a traumatic, gut-wrenching visit to the cemetery. And it’s a horror that I wouldn’t wish on anybody.”
IIHS found between 2009 and 2013 — the year Annie died — 612 people died in crashes on the Fourth of July, 42 percent involved a drunk driver.
“I think July the Fourth is a day of celebration that often involves alcohol,” said Anne McCartt, a senior vice president for IIHS. “I think people are just in a lighter mood, they may be more likely to have other people in the car, maybe not paying close attention.”
The Maryland State Police is adding about 100 extra officers to patrol the roads this holiday weekend. Trooper Marcus Holland will be looking for distracted and drunk drivers.
“The fact is one drink is too much,” said Holland.
The troopers we talked to say they expect DUIs to start ramping up in the afternoon Saturday and continue well into the night. IIHS found July 3 through July 5 are all in the top 15 most deadly days on the road.
© 2015 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.