In the United States, summer is the deadliest time of year on to be on the road. Crash fatalities, particularly for teens, peak between Memorial Day and Labor Day, leading some traffic safety professionals to call this stretch the 100 Deadly Days of Summer. Millions of Americans take to the roads for camping trips, weddings, weekends at the beach or visits with friends and family. Tragically, thousands will never make it home. We will explore why this happens and share summer traffic safety tips to keep you and your loved ones safe on the road.
Why Are There More Fatal Crashes in the Summer?
Numerous factors contribute to the increase in fatal car crashes during the summer. Some of the most common include:
More Vehicles on the Roads
American roads have far more travelers during the summer months than other seasons thanks to better weather and vacation travel. Additionally, many people travel on unfamiliar roads as they vacation, so they may not be aware of potential hazards.
When we think of distracted driving, most people immediately think of cellphones. The truth is that there are many other things taking drivers’ attention from the road. In addition to cellphones, rubbernecking, in-car adjustments and technology, passengers, eating, drinking and smoking are only some of the things that could take a driver’s focus off the road. Navigating new areas using GPS can add a layer of distraction, as can sightseeing and daydreaming. Using a handheld phone while driving is not only dangerous, it is illegal in Maryland.
Speeding and Aggressive Driving
With the summer months come improved road conditions. This leads many drivers to feel it is safe to ignore posted speed limits and zip past slower traffic. Large speed differentials between drivers, regardless of absolute speed, increase the danger for everyone on the road.
Speed limits are set for ideal circumstances, so always remember to adjust your speed during inclement weather and especially in work zones — which are more common in summer.
The combination of alcohol, and/or drugs, along with the summer heat can lead to faster than usual impairment such that individuals may be unaware of how impaired they are. Alcohol is a significant contributing factor in most summer car crashes, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
More Teen Drivers on the Roads
With schools not in session, there are likely more teen drivers on the roads. Teens are some of the most at-risk drivers, given their relative inexperience and their propensity for distracted driving, aggressive driving and not wearing seat belts.
Do Your Part to Stay Safe on the Road This Summer
The summer increase in traffic fatalities does not need to remain a foregone conclusion. By changing behavior behind the wheel, we can eliminate this spike in summer fatalities and overall crashes and deaths on our roadways. Take the time to prepare your vehicle and yourself for summer travel.
1. Get Your Car Serviced
Even if you don’t have a road trip planned, it’s a great idea to get your car serviced as summer begins. Tires and wiper blades take a beating in winter weather and may need replacement. Change the oil and top off fluid levels so you aren’t stranded with a broken down or overheated car.
2. Always Wear a Seat Belt
Driving just a few blocks to a friend’s house for a barbecue? Distance doesn’t matter. ALWAYS fasten your seatbelt! Most car crashes happen close to home, so buckle up. Every seat, every ride.
3. Obey the Speed Limit
As noted above, speeding is a major factor in crashes. Always obey the speed limit. Your life, and the lives of others, may depend on it.
4. Watch the Weather
This is truly important for multi-state road trips. Review the forecast on your route regularly so you can anticipate potentially hazardous conditions. Even during light rain, roads get slick due to oil residue built up over time. Excessively hot weather can be taxing on your vehicle and could lead to tire or mechanical failure. You should always have a plan in the event severe weather such as flooding or tornados occur while you’re on the road.
5. Keep Your Eyes (and Attention) on the Road
We’ve already noted the dangers of distracted driving. Avoid anything that takes your eyes, or focus, off the road.
6. Be Extra Vigilant on Weekends and Evenings
Friday and Saturday evenings are especially dangerous, resulting in the highest numbers of fatal crashes during the summer season. Even if roads are less crowded, there may be more dangerous behaviors among drivers on the road. Watch for signs of impaired or aggressive driving and call 9-1-1 if you see concerning behavior. Do not attempt to follow these vehicles.
7. Be the SOBER Driver or Be the MAKE A PLAN Driver
As previously noted, impaired driving can lead to tragedy on the road. Remember, the only safe Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) for driving is 0.0 as impairment can occur after only one drink. When visiting with friends or family for a celebration that involves alcohol, plan to stay the night or find a sober ride home with a designated sober driver, public transit or a rideshare.