When it comes to dangerous driving conditions, we never picture the summer sun and heat. Learn to spot and protect yourself against these seasonal risks
For many Americans, summer plans include packing up the car, kids, pets, etc. and taking a road trip. While it should be a carefree experience, it’s still a time to avoid distractions by paying attention to your surroundings. Winter holds obvious driving dangers like whiteout conditions and ice roads, but summer roads have their own lurking hazards often masked by the promise of sun, vacation, and peace of mind. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), August consistently has the highest number of fatal car accidents out of any other month of the year. Their latest study in 2013 revealed 3,136 deaths in August alone. Meanwhile, July and September have the second highest recorded number of fatal car accidents with 2,900 each that same year. Be aware that these statistics are no coincidence. The summer sun blinds many to the most common dangers.
School’s out for summer, but luckily not forever. When school is no longer is session, more teens spend their free time on the roads. Unfortunately, their lack of experience and poor judgement cause them to be involved in more accidents than any other age group. This data deems them as extremely high risk drivers which leads higher insurance rates and dangerous roads.
Congested highways aren’t only stressful, but dangerous. Popular vacation spots see some of the most unpredictable driving behaviors from locals and visitors alike. There is the potential for road rage from impatient drivers and sudden braking and slow driving from those unfamiliar with the area. In this case, it’s important to stay alert and avoid anyone exhibiting inconsistent driving conduct.
When the weather is nice, vacationers aren’t the only ones who want to get outside. Summer is the perfect time for city and construction workers to get the most work done. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that construction zones cause an average of 670 car accident fatalities a year. In this case, it’s important to follow speed limit signs and to use extra caution when traveling through construction zones even if it looks like no work is being done at the time.
Summer attracts more than just cars to the road. Many motorcyclists and bicyclists wait all year to take their bikes out of the garage and into the open air. Unfortunately, this leads to an average of 740 fatal cyclist deaths caused by a motor vehicle each year. These added wheels make sharing a top priority for summer drivers. Be extremely cautious when making turns, parallel parking, and opening doors.
As you may know, hot weather causes the air inside your car’s tires to expand. If your tires are severely worn, this added pressure can cause them to explode. To avoid ending up on the side of the road in the scorching heat, check your tire pressure on a regular basis, especially during heat waves.
There are a number of potential dangers when it comes to driving under scorching conditions. There’s the risk for your car’s engine to become overheated, especially when the air conditioner is in constant use. Be prepared to handle an overheated engine with our tips. Then there are more minor risks like sun glare and dehydration affecting your ability to drive. So be sure to always keep a pair of sunglasses and a jug of water in your vehicle.
However, the largest risk of sun and heat exposure can happen when your car isn’t even moving. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, an average of 38 children die from heat stroke every year in the U.S. when left in parked cars. This statistic remains a constant year in and year out despite several public service announcements from the NHTSA since 2012.
Many don’t quite understand how the sun and heat work together to make an oven of your car’s interior. Therefore it’s important to remember that on a day with temperatures as low as 70 degrees, the inside of your car can reach deadly temperatures in less than an hour. Radio station wbur 90.9 conducted a hot car study in Georgia and found that on a day where the temperature was 97, a parked car will reach a 174 degrees in only 40 minutes. Children can’t handle heat as well as adults and when it comes to vehicles, children are usually trapped in car seats or mentally underdeveloped to attempt to escape.
Children and pets should never be left alone in a vehicle, even for a few minutes. It’s recommended you leave all children and pets at home with a sitter or if you must bring them with you, to always bring them with you when you leave your car. Always keep jugs of water and the AC on in your vehicle on particularly warm days.