Snow, rain, and ice are common cold-weather threats to driver safety, but summer brings with it its own set of dangers. For drivers, the added traffic of summer vacationers is just part of the increased risk — construction, sun glare, and unpredictable weather patterns all add to the danger.
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, summer and fall are the most dangerous times of the year for drivers, with July and August being the deadliest. More drivers are out on the road during that time, which increases the likelihood of collisions.
For fleets and professional drivers, this time of year isn’t just business as usual; it requires more attention to safe driving practices. Here’s a look at eight ways to stay safe behind the wheel.
No. 1: Prioritize Vehicle Maintenance
Extreme heat takes a toll on vehicles. It can lead to tire blowouts and can affect your vehicle’s braking ability. It causes your engine to overheat more easily and places increased stress on just about every mechanical function your vehicle performs.
Paying extra attention to tire pressure and tread, checking the brakes frequently, and making sure that your vehicle’s cooling system has all the proper fluids can help keep vehicles from being sidelined during the summer months.
No. 2: Stay Alert for Distracted Drivers on the Road
Whether it’s families on vacation or students heading toward the beach, summer roads are filled with drivers who are more distracted than usual. While distracted drivers are already a threat on the roads, summer can bring more distractions than usual, so watch out for drivers who aren’t watching out for you. If you see a distracted driver, give yourself more space to avoid being near them on the road.
No. 3: Stay Informed of Weather Conditions
Depending on what part of the country you’re in, your summer weather patterns could include thunderstorms, downpours that result in flash flooding, tornados, and more.
These often can happen with little to no warning, so make sure you know the forecast for the area you’re driving each day, and check in periodically just to make sure nothing has changed.
No. 4: Be Mindful of Peak Travel Times and Events
Some days are more dangerous than others; weekends and certain holidays are associated with an increase in drinking and driving. So, for professional drivers who are behind the wheel during that time, it requires more attention to the surrounding hazards.
July 4 is particularly deadly, both in terms of motorcycle fatalities and passenger vehicles. On the weekends, the highest number of fatal crashes happen between 3 and 7 p.m., so be aware of increased risk when you’re behind the wheel — and take extra safety precautions as needed.
No. 5: Prioritize Eye Care for Optimal Driving
Driving can be hard on the eyes, period. But during summer months, when the sun is out in full force, there’s also an increased amount of sun glare coming off the road and other vehicles.
This can be particularly dangerous during the early morning and late evening, so invest in a good pair of polarized sunglasses. They’ll help protect your eyes from fatigue and damage, cut down on glare and make it easier to see clearly.
No. 6: Maintain a Safe Following Distance
Whether you’re hauling a heavy load or driving a light-duty vehicle, increasing your following distance can help offset the dangers brought by heavier traffic, construction zones and vacationing drivers who are traveling in unfamiliar areas.
No. 7: Recognize and Respond to the Impact of Heat on Driving
Finally, it’s easy to dismiss just how much the sun can affect us, but it’s important to pay attention to how it affects both drivers and vehicles. Heat exhaustion can make drivers drowsy, and an overheated vehicle can leave them stranded.
This is not the time to push yourself or your vehicle past the limit — that only makes it unsafe for everyone on the road. You can combat fatigue by taking frequent breaks, and paying attention to your vehicle’s warning signs can prevent you from breakdowns and malfunctions.
No. 8: Don’t Forget Your Keys
The Smith5Keys® are the foundation of the Smith System driver safety training program, and they’re designed to give drivers the knowledge they need to practice safer driving.
Using The Smith5Keys, drivers can learn how to give themselves the space they need on the road, the visibility to detect danger, and the time needed to react to complex driving environments. Learning the 5Keys, or refreshing your knowledge of these principles and how to use them, can help you have a safer summer behind the wheel.
While you can’t change the behavior of other drivers around you or the conditions of the road you’re on, following these eight tips can help you have a healthier, safer summer.