Getting Answers: car accidents on all-time high in Mass. heading into Memorial Day

With Memorial Day just one week away, millions of people are expected to hit the road this upcoming holiday weekend.
Published: May. 22, 2023 at 4:37 PM EDT|Updated: May. 22, 2023 at 6:32 PM EDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WGGB/WSHM) - With Memorial Day just one week away, millions of people are expected to hit the road this upcoming holiday weekend.

AAA has predicted travel to hit pre-pandemic levels and are urging drivers to make safe driving a priority as car accidents are at an all-time high in Massachusetts.

“I’ve seen nothing but accidents and it’s texting, and it’s just ridiculous,” said Suzanne Wellman of Chicopee.

It has been something that many seem to be saying more often when driving anywhere throughout Massachusetts.

“A lot of people, now that they’re back on the road, they are still back at not taking their time, they’re not leaving early, they are just in a rush all of a sudden all the time now,” said Felicia Holden of Springfield.

A forced lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic prevented many people from traveling. Drivers we spoke with believe that the roads are more dangerous today than they were before the pandemic.

“Absolutely horrible,” Wellman said. “?Chicopee has been out of control, 100 percent.”

“We all want to get where we’re going, and we need to take our time and drive,” Holden added. “We just want others to be considerate of everybody else on the road.”

With the busy Memorial Day travel weekend upon us, one local driving school is making it a priority to educate their young drivers on the importance of following driving laws in place.

“We talk a lot about the laws and regulations, about the hands-free driving law, which was instated right after quarantine,” said Juniper Holmes, director of Ja’Duke Driving School in Turners Falls. “They’re not allowed to actually hold their phone in their hands. They’re supposed to use a Bluetooth device to talk on the cellphone or, if they are over 18, then they can talk to Siri and use Bluetooth, but texting in Massachusetts is illegal while you’re driving.”

Holmes told us that distracted driving is a common issue they see on the roads while conducting their driving lessons, and it is something they are stressing now more than ever.

“People are staring at their laps, and when you see people whose eyes are not on the road, their eyes are straight down on their laps, you usually think that they are texting or they’re on their phone, and the law also states that you’re not allowed to be texting or making phone calls at a red light or stop sign, either,” she said.

Homes also stressed the importance of staying alert while driving.

“They should always be driving defensively, and they should always be preparing for other drivers to not be following road rules because we see it so much every day that the best thing we can do is try to tell the students that, in order to be safe out there, we have to act like a team and make sure we all stay safe on the roads,” she explained.

Meanwhile, AAA spokesperson Mark Schieldrop told Western Mass News that the number of car accidents in Massachusetts is at an all-time high.

“Over the past two years, we have seen an alarming trend in the number of crashes and fatalities on Massachusetts roadways,” he said.

Schieldrop told us that last year in 2022, more than 400 people died on the roads.

“The numbers are really bad, and they are actually as bad as we’ve seen since 2005,” he told us. “And this comes after years of progress, so the pandemic, things kind of changed right around when the pandemic hit and a bunch of people decided they are going to give up on their good driving behaviors and start driving badly.”

For those taking to the roads this Memorial Day, Schieldrop said that people should make safe driving a priority.

“This is a big problem, and so, we definitely urge people to drive safely on Memorial Day. A lot of people are going to be on the road for road trips,” he said. “Consider leaving on an off day. So, the worst time to leave for your Memorial Day trip is that Friday afternoon, and then, one of the worst times to come home is that Monday afternoon.”