For many of us, summer is synonymous with vacation. Whether it’s a getaway trip into the tranquil mountains or a week on a sandy beach, the summer months are a prime time for millions to hit the road.
However, summer is also the deadliest season for driving-related deaths. From increased road traffic to more people driving impaired or distracted, no summer goes by without reports of those who have suffered a severe or fatal injury due to automotive accidents. With a bit of preparation and forethought, you can help make sure your summer travel is safe and enjoyable by taking note of these five driving tips and practices:
1. Keep Your Car Well-Maintained
The last thing you need to bummer your summer fun is a broken-down car — especially before or during a road trip. The best offense against common heat-related vehicle issues during the summer is a good defense, so make sure you keep up with your routine car maintenance during the summer.
Keep an eye on your fluid levels and bring any car manufacturer recommended services up to date before embarking on long journeys. These may include:
- Engine performance and any current “check engine light” issues
- All fluids, including oil, windshield wiper, coolant, and brake fluids
- Tire pressure and tread wear
- Battery level
- A/C performance
Summer is a great time to review your car emergency plan. Be sure to stock up on emergency supplies that you may need for a flat tire or other problem that can occur without warning. Extra water or sports drinks, nonperishable snacks for children, and sunscreen are all smart additions to an already stocked emergency kit.
2. Always Practice Safe Driving
We get it — the summer is a time for freedom and fun! However, tragedies occur every day on the many roadways across the country, and the number only increases as more drivers hit the road.
It is always a great idea to remind yourself and other drivers to avoid any dangerous behaviors or bad habits during driving. These include the top driving behaviors (all avoidable) for fatal accidents in the United States: distracted driving, drowsy driving, aggressive driving, not wearing a seatbelt, speeding, or driving while intoxicated. Drunk driving is still a huge problem, killing over 10,000 people in auto accidents in 2016. Not only can an ounce of prevention save your life, but can help protect other drives on the road, as well.
3. Child Car Safety
Sadly, several tragic accidents that occur with motor vehicles involve children. Even worse, death can occur whether or not the car is moving.
As a parent or caregiver, whenever you drive in the car, always remind yourself of this mantra: “Look Before You Lock.” The death or injury of children left in vehicles is often a complete accident and does not mean that a parent is careless or unloving. Routine and muscle-memory can lead to accidents at the most unexpected moments. In 2019 alone, there were 52 deaths of children left in a hot vehicle — one short of the record set in 2018 of 53 deaths.
Hot cars are not the only cause of death. Fatal backups over children is also a leading cause of accidental death or injury among children. Remind yourself to thoroughly check your surroundings and blind spots before backing up regardless of where you are.
4. Things-That-Don’t-Usually-Cross-Your-Mind Driving Tips
Consider these our “junk drawer” tidbits of advice for summer driving. There are a variety of things you should keep in mind as you travel on the road during the hot months, and many of them may surprise you!
- Avoid resting with your feet on the dashboard while riding in the front seat — please!
- Get in the habit of wearing appropriate footwear when driving. Flip-flops, bare feet, and high heels are big no-no's when it comes to practicing safe driving.
- Always ensure you have sunscreen and sunglasses to help prevent skin cancer, the most common type of cancer in the United States. People remember to wear sunscreen on the beach, but not while driving in the car.
These quick tips can save you from huge headaches — and possible medical issues and bills — to help you enjoy your summer travel more!
5. Travel Best Practices During COVID-19
While the above driving tips and practices are great no matter what year you are traveling, the emergence of the deadly virus SARS-CoV-2 and the COVID-19 infection has added an extra layer of complexity to summer travel. If you are traveling this summer, ensure that you are taking all of the recommended precautions that the Center for Disease Control has released regarding stopping the spread of COVID-19.
Avoid places where large crowds are gathering without protective measures, and monitor everyone you are traveling with for any signs and symptoms of COVID-19. Taking extra care about what activities you do during this time will help protect you and others you may come into contact with as you travel.
Safety Equals Travel Success
Make sure you get there safely this summer by taking precautions and staying healthy. If you're planning a road trip this summer, be sure to read our Summer Road Trip Tips.