The numbers aren’t encouraging. While driving this Labor Day weekend is looking to be more affordable than ever, it’s also estimated to be even more risky, according to travel and safety experts. That doesn’t bode well for this holiday—or the rest of the year to come.

Whether the statistical estimates come from the National Safety Council (NSC), National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), or the American Automobile Association (AAA), gas prices are at a historic low this Labor Day holiday. Cheaper fuel means more cash in people’s pockets and more people on the roads.  

Sobering Statistics

  • U.S. drivers have logged a record 1.58 trillion miles on the road in the first half of this year, a 3.3 percent increase over the same period in 2015, according to the FHWA.

  • NSC estimates that motor vehicle deaths were 9 percent higher through the first six months of 2016 than in 2015.

  • U.S. drivers have saved about $20 billion on gasoline between January 1, 2016, and July 4, 2016, compared to the same period in 2015, AAA has stated.

  • NSC predicts that 438 people will be killed on the nation's roads over the three-day Labor Day weekend that begins Sept. 2, potentially making it the deadliest Labor Day weekend since 2008.

  • During Labor Day weekend 2014, almost half of the 401 fatal crashes involved drivers who had been drinking, according to NHTSA.

  • In 2015, in just Texas alone, there were 359 DUI-alcohol crashes that resulted in 12 fatalities and 36 serious injuries during the 2015 Labor Day Holiday reporting period, the Texas Department of Transportation advises.

  • NHTSA says that During the 2014 Labor Day holiday period, 83 percent of drunk-driving crash fatalities occurred between 6 p.m. and 5:59 a.m.

  • NSC observes that total motor vehicle fatalities in 2016 could possibly exceed 40,000 for the first time in nine years.

“With the potential for so many more people to be on the roads that means we all have to be at our best in terms of safe and responsible behavior to limit the risk to ourselves and others,” says Jennifer Stockburger, director of operations at Consumer Reports' Auto Test Center.

The rise in fatalities is a disturbing trend, influenced by many factors from gas prices and buzzed driving to increased distractions. Fortunately, car safety continues its steady march, with improved crash protection and the proliferation of advanced safety features.

The key takeaway from these numbers is to minimize your risks over the holiday weekend, by expecting additional travel time, driving sober and limiting night-time travel, when crash risks increase the most. Longer term, seek systems like forward-collision warning with automatic emergency braking when choosing your next car.