A favorite American pastime in summer months is taking a road trip. Unfortunately, more people on the road driving longer distances also means more risk for summer car accidents. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Highway Loss Data Institute, reports that summer is one of the top most dangerous times of the year on the road. In summer, weekends are deadlier, and July and August are the deadliest months of the road in the entire year.
Alcohol and drug use, distracted driving, improper car maintenance, inexperienced drivers on the road and more are all contributing factors to risky conditions on summer roads. If you’re planning on taking a road trip with family or friends this summer, use these tips to stay safe.
Hot summer temperatures can increase the risk that your car malfunctions. Summer heat particularly makes tires vulnerable and can increase the likelihood of blowouts on the road. Under-inflated tires produce more heat, so get your tires checked out before driving any considerable distance. Make sure you ride with a spare in case you need to replace it.
You should also check that oil, brake fluid, coolant, windshield wiper fluid, power steering fluid and other car components are all stocked and in great working order. A clean air filter will also help ensure your car runs at peak performance during a summer road trip. Make sure all lights and signals function perfectly before driving at any time.
Take an emergency kit with jumper cables, a flashlight, water bottles, first aid equipment and a phone charger with you. If you’re in an accident and are stranded in the middle of nowhere, you’ll want to be able to contact emergency services and stay safe.
Summer road trips are carefree times and ones you’ll likely be spending with other people in your car. The more people in a car, the more distractions you might encounter as a driver.
Distracted driving is highly dangerous. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports there were 3,450 deaths in 2016 and 391,000 injuries in 2015 involving distracted drivers. Minimize distractions by:
- Turning down music
- Never using a phone while driving
- Giving young children a quiet activity to stay busy, like a coloring book or game
- Researching routes ahead of time, or asking another passenger to navigate
As the driver, take ownership of keeping passengers safe. Make it understood that you may not be able to engage in discussions while driving because you need to focus.
Never Drive Impaired
Summertime may be party time for some, but that doesn’t excuse driving while impaired. There is one death because of an alcohol-impaired driver every 50 minutes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and marijuana users are 25 percent more likely to be involved in a crash than sober drivers.
In your road trip group, make a pact to never let an impaired driver get behind the wheel. That puts the entire car at risk, as well as others on the road.
Only Drive While Alert
Just like you should never get behind the wheel after drinking alcohol or using drugs, avoid driving while sleepy, too. Drowsy driving caused 72,000 crashes and 800 deaths in 2013, the CDC reports.
It may be tempting to keep driving on the road to get to your next destination, but it’s important to get proper rest. Drowsy driving decreases attention, slows reactions, and impairs decision-making. Make rest a part of your road trip schedule, or switch off driving so that only alert drivers are behind the wheel.
Be a Defensive Driver
One notable reason why summer roads are more dangerous is that there are more teen drivers on the road. AAA calls the days between Memorial Day and Labor Day the “100 Deadliest Days,” because an average of 10 people a day are killed by teen drivers during these times. This is a 14 percent increase compared to the rest of the year.
Knowing the increased risks during summer months, use defensive driving techniques like:
- Staying focused on the road
- Being aware of surroundings and the behavior of other drivers
- Always making the most cautious driving decision to avoid accidents
- Allowing up to 3 to 4 seconds to brake between you and any driver in front of you, and more in inclement weather
You should also be aware of changing road conditions, including construction zones. Especially when you’re driving in unfamiliar areas, be sure to drive at the speed limit and be proactively aware about evolving surroundings.
What to Do If You’re in a Road Trip Accident
Factors like distracted driving, neglecting to maintain a vehicle, impaired and drowsy driving, and reckless driving all contribute to negligent risks for car accident injuries and deaths. If you are a victim in a serious car accident, especially when out of state, contact emergency services. They can fill out a police report and make sure the other driver stays at the scene so information can be gathered.
Document the accident by taking photos of the scene and writing down your account of what happened. Contact a car accident attorney for a free consultation on whether or not pursuing action against the other driver for negligence is worth it. You may be entitled to more compensation than an insurance company is willing to offer.