How To Stay Safe and Celebrate on Memorial Day

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As the first federal U.S. holiday leading into summer, some people call Memorial Day the opening of Trauma Season. As dramatic as that sounds, according to Pew Research, 41,900 people landed in the emergency room on average in the last week of May between the years 2000 and 2018.[1] Summer opens people up to all sorts of injuries because people are outdoors, often taking part in drinking and partying.

Memorial Day may mean a flight out of town, a road trip or a picnic. Maybe you plan to throw a barbecue in your backyard and invite family and friends. Some people gather at the pool or the beach since it’s unofficially the first day of summer. Whatever it is that you’re doing, it’s important to remember two things: safety and insurance, because oftentimes the two go hand-in-hand.

If you’re entertaining at home you’ll need the right renters or homeowners insurance. You’ll need adequate car insurance in case you’re involved in an accident, regardless of what you do on Memorial Day.

This Memorial Day, you not only have to safeguard your own safety, but that of others, in case you’re found liable for accidents and injuries. Keep reading for Memorial Day safety tips and all things insurance.

Key Takeaways

  • You are much more likely to have a car accident on Memorial Day weekend than any other day in May.
  • Nearly half of all traffic fatalities over Memorial Day weekend involved an alcohol-impaired driver.
  • Accidents in the home are more likely to happen due to grilling, alcohol consumption and guests in the home.
  • It’s important to have the right auto and home insurance coverages, especially on this weekend holiday.

What Is Memorial Day and Why Is It Celebrated?

Memorial Day is a nationally recognized U.S. holiday that is dedicated to honoring the American military service members who died in defense of their country. The holiday traces its roots back to shortly after the Civil War in 1868 but was initially called Decoration Day because people would decorate the deceased military members’ graves with flowers.[2]

When Is Memorial Day?

Each year, Memorial Day is observed on the last Monday of May. This year, Memorial Day is on May 27, 2024.[2]

What Are the Most Common Disasters on Memorial Day?

When people celebrate Memorial Day by hosting a party, traveling or doing some other activity, they are at higher risk of suffering an accident involving the following:

  • Burns from grills
  • Drunk driving accidents
  • Traffic accidents in general
  • Wildfires (wildfire season starts in June)
  • Recreational boating accidents
  • Drowning

Memorial Day Motor-Vehicle Fatalities

The table below shows us that from 2017 to 2022, about 10% to 14% of fatal car accidents in the month of May happened on Memorial Day.[3] The same study also revealed that 43% of all traffic fatalities that occured over the 2022 Memorial Day weekend involved a drunk driver.[4] It’s important to have the right coverage in place, in case you are involved in a car accident.


Memorial Day Fatalities

Total Fatalities in May



















How To Stay Safe on the Road and at Home on Memorial Day

Traveling on Memorial Day

This year, the National Safety Council (NSC) estimates that there will be 418 traffic-related deaths across the country.[3] Follow the tips below to help you stay safe while on the road this Memorial Day:

  • Consider increasing your coverage limits and add on coverages you may need to make up for the higher chance of having a car accident.
  • Add roadside assistance to your auto policy in case your car breaks down.
  • Keep an emergency or disaster kit in your car.
  • Don’t drink and drive.
  • Don’t get distracted by other passengers in the car while you’re behind the wheel.
  • Use Uber or Lyft or any rideshare service to avoid a DUI or a DUI-related accident.
  • Designate a sober driver if you don’t want to spend money on rideshare service.
  • Put away the phone and keep your eyes and focus on the road.
  • Drive at the speed limit.
  • Wear seatbelts, which are 45% effective in preventing fatalities among front-seat passenger car occupants.[4]
  • Make sure you have your registration and insurance cards on you in case you’re pulled over at a traffic stop.
  • Drive cautiously in and around work zones.
  • If you’re driving a long distance, make frequent stops to rest your eyes and get adequate sleep. Avoid driving “through the night.”
  • Keep your gas tank full or your EV battery charged and don’t wait until it’s in the red to refuel or recharge.
  • Keep adequate distance between your car and the car in front of you.
  • Make sure your headlights work and that your windows are clean enough for full visibility.
  • Let a trusted person know your itinerary and the routes you are taking to get to your destination. Check in regularly with this person.
  • If your health insurance is not valid in the destination of your choice or even during a long drive there, consider buying travel health insurance because there are no short-term insurance plans. If you have Medicare, you can seek medical attention anywhere in the U.S.
  • If renting a car, know that your auto insurance will provide the same coverage you have for your personal vehicle for the rental car. If you have collision coverage, you do not need to buy a collision waiver. You may also be covered by your credit card company, so check with an agent representing the card you’re using for the rental.
  • Make it appear as if you are home, by using automatic smart lights, having your neighbors collect your mail and check on your home while you’re away and installing a home security system (which may earn you a discount on home insurance). Preventing a break-in is less costly than being the victim of one and your homeowners insurance rates will increase if you file a claim for theft!

Hosting a Party on Memorial Day

According to the U.S. Fire Administration, there were around 1,371 grilling fires in May from 2017 to 2021.[5] You are covered by homeowners insurance if you have a fire accident, but here are some grilling safety tips on avoiding mishaps:

  • Make sure the grill works properly before using it.
  • Make sure you know how to use the grill properly. Follow directions carefully if it’s a new grill.
  • Do not leave the grill unattended.
  • Never grill indoors or in enclosed areas, like an enclosed balcony.
  • Keep adults, children and pets away from the grill.
  • Keep the grill away from the home, the deck, branches or anything that can catch fire.
  • Use grilling utensils, which are long enough to protect the grill master.
  • Do not use lighter fluid on charcoals that have already ignited. You’ll get a dangerous blaze!

What if someone leaves your party drunk and gets pulled over by the police, who later determine that they were above the legal blood-alcohol level? Were you, the host of a party where you served alcohol in your home, responsible for the offense?

On account of what’s called “social host liability,” if you are serving alcohol in a non-commercial setting with certain licenses, you can be held liable if a guest gets drunk and injures someone. This is where homeowners insurance comes in. If you are sued, homeowners insurance would cover the legal bills.

However, your best bet — and the best way to save lives and avoid a rate hike — is to make sure that your guests do not drink and drive. In 2022, about 32% of all traffic fatalities on Memorial Day weekend involved a driver who was alcohol-impaired.[3]

Water and Trampoline Safety on Memorial Day

If you’re the one with the pool and trampoline, everyone wants you to host the party. But insurance companies call these fun items attractive nuisances because they open up policyholders to liability for accidents and injuries.

Not only should you be vigilant of accidents with family members and guests, but you could even be liable for injuries if children break in and get hurt using a pool or trampoline.

In 2022, the number of drowning accidents spiked from May to August.[6] Here are four tips on protecting yourself and your guests if you have a pool or trampoline.

  • Make sure people going in the pool know how to swim.
  • Constant adult supervision is a must with children using the pool or trampoline.
  • Fence your pool on all four sides and use a self-closing gate.
  • Fence your trampoline on all four sides.

Outdoor Safety on Memorial Day

If someone is injured in your home after setting off fireworks over Memorial Day weekend, you may be held liable for injuries. The good news is that homeowners insurance liability protection may cover the cost. If you live in a location where fireworks are illegal, you will receive no coverage.

If you spend time in the sun, stay hydrated and use a sunscreen with a high SPF. Make sure to reapply as necessary, especially after swimming or sweating while grilling. Protect your eyes by wearing a hat and sunglasses. Wear a wide-brimmed hat and protective clothing for added protection during the strongest rays around noon.

If you plan on doing some outdoor water activity like boating or rafting, be sure to take all safety precautions, including wearing a life jacket, not consuming alcohol if you’re operating the boat and always supervising children. Be especially careful when it comes to recreational boating — the number of boating fatalities in 2022 spiked during May, June and July.[7]


What’s the number one accident on Memorial Day Weekend?

The number of car accidents typically spikes over Memorial Day weekend.[3] In addition, the number of boating accidents can be higher than average in May.[7]

Why is boating safety a concern on Memorial Day?

Boating safety is a concern on Memorial Day because May is one of the months when boating fatalities are higher than average. In addition, efforts are still being taken to deter boating under the influence.[7]

Does home insurance cover injuries if a guest is hurt during a Memorial Day barbecue?

If a guest trips and falls, breaks a leg or sprains an ankle, they may need medical attention. If you have homeowners insurance, you’re covered for the medical bill and any lawsuit that may arise from the incident.

Are drowning accidents that happen on Memorial Day covered by home insurance?

Because drowning is accidental, yes, it is often covered by homeowners insurance unless it’s excluded in the home insurance policy.[8]


  1. Pew Research Center. “Hospital Emergency Rooms See Boom in Patients Around the Fourth of July.” Accessed May 23, 2024.
  2. U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs. “Memorial Day History.” Accessed May 23, 2024.
  3. National Safety Council. “Holiday Traffic Fatality Estimate - Data Details.” Accessed May 23, 2024.
  4. National Safety Council. “Holiday Traffic Fatality Estimate.” Accessed May 23, 2024.
  5. National Fire Protection Association. “NFPA Offers Grilling Safety Information Ahead of Memorial Day Weekend.” Accessed May 23, 2024.
  6. Statista. “Number of Deaths From Drowning in the United States in 2022, by Month.” Accessed May 23, 2024.
  7. United States Coast Guard News. “Coast Guard Urges Safety During National Safe Boating Week, Memorial Day Weekend.” Accessed May 23, 2024.
  8. Travelers. “Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Pool Damage?” Accessed May 23, 2024.

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