The summer months always bring a spike in car accidents. According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the average number of fatal car accidents from October to May is around 2,700. But from June through September, that number spikes up to nearly 3,100. The number of non-fatal car accidents also skyrockets, with August taking the top spot for the most dangerous month to travel on US roads.
Those extra car accidents have a variety of causes, all of which are a direct result of summer itself:
- Increase in road use
- Higher rates of motorcyclists and bicyclists
- More teen motorists who lack experience
- Increase in road construction
- High temperatures that increase the risk of vehicle or equipment failure
- Road defects left over from the winter and spring, like potholes
Together, these factors form a dangerous driving cocktail that reduces your ability to navigate the roadways safely.
How to Stay Safe on the Roads in the Summer
If you’d like to keep yourself and your passengers safe throughout the summer months, here’s what you should do:
Be extra cautious in construction zones. Construction zones pose numerous driving hazards: narrow lanes, slow construction vehicles, increased pedestrians, and bottlenecked traffic. If you have to merge, do so with caution, and ensure you have your lights whenever you’re in a construction zone.
Don’t drive impaired. Drugs and alcohol are obviously off grounds when you’re driving, but you also shouldn’t try to push yourself late at night or early in the morning. If you’re tired, pull over. The NHTSA estimates drowsy driving causes more than 90,000 police-reported crashes each year.
Don’t text or use social media. Social media and texting account for more than 400,000 accidents and 3,000 fatalities every year. Avoid cell phone use while you’re behind the wheel. If you have to check something on your phone, pull over in a safe location or ask a passenger for help.
Don’t speed or drive recklessly. It’s tempting to zip through traffic as fast as possible, especially when you’ve got a long trip ahead of you. Fight the temptation. Watch for street signs, pay attention to the traffic lights, and watch the traffic around you. During long trips, pull over every 2-3 hours to stretch your legs and give yourself a break. These will also help you avoid getting too drowsy behind the wheel.
Keep your vehicle properly maintained. Many people put extra miles on the odometer during the nice summer weather, so take maintenance seriously. Check your oil, coolant levels, and tire pressure regularly. If you’re not sure how, take your vehicle to a garage so your vehicle stays summer-ready.
Mind your blind spots. While this is always a good rule to follow, it’s especially relevant in the summer months when you’re more likely to share the roads with smaller vehicles. Motorcycles and bicycles will disappear in your blind spots, and failing to see them could lead to terrible results. Remember: When passing bicyclists, Pennsylvania law requires you to give them four feet of space.
Be cautious around other drivers. The summer months mean additional travelers on the road, and some of them are distracted by cell phones, conversations, and attractions on the side of the road. You might be responsible on the road, but not all drivers will be as cautious. Watch for drivers drifting out of their lanes, merging without signaling, and braking suddenly to make a last-second turn. Stay four seconds behind the car in front of you, and avoid driving next to other cars for extended periods of time.
By minding these driving guidelines all summer long, you can help to ensure that you and your passengers remain safe even in the heaviest vacation traffic.
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