The most dangerous days to be on the road are the 100 days between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
While driving in the summer heat may seem like it pales in comparison to a whiteout blizzard, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), July 2012 had the highest number of fatal car accidents of any month that year. In fact, August and June ranked second and third, respectively. So what can you do to ensure your fleet’s safety in these warmer months?
Start Seeing Motorcycles
When the end of spring rolls around and warmer days become more frequent so do bicycles and motorcycles. A video by Driving Dynamics www.drivingdynamics.info highlights some safety tips and great reminders to be safe and aware around motorcycles and bikes.
Cyclists can also make things like parking, turning and pulling out into traffic even more risky. In fact, the IIHS reports that 722 cyclists were involved in fatal accidents with motor vehicles in 2012 alone.
Motorcycles specifically are an additional risk in the summer months. They are the smallest vehicles on the road and thus often weave in and out of lanes, are more difficult to spot, and can easily hide in blind spots. Additionally, they often appear to be farther away and moving more quickly than they actually are. So what should your drivers keep in mind when driving this summer?
- Look before you turn: A whopping 40 percent of 2-vehicle, fatal motorcycle accidents in 2012 were the result of a car trying to turn left while the motorcycle went straight, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. If you see a motorcycle at an intersection, attempt to make eye contact with its rider before turning in its direction.
- Check your blind spots often: Since motorcycles are smaller than cars, it's that much easier for them to slip into your blind spot — especially when they're attempting to pass you. Swivel your head to check your blind spots regularly and, in particular, before changing lanes.
- Follow the 4-second rule: Increase your driving distance when you find yourself behind a motorcycle and maintain a cushion of at least 4 seconds. Choose an object (a tree, road sign, or house) and count the seconds between when the motorcycle passes and when you pass. This cushion gives you time to react to the unexpected.
Summertime Means Construction
Summertime, especially in the Midwest, means additional road construction. The CDC reported fatalities in construction and maintenance work zones averaged 669 from 2007 through 2012. Impress upon your drivers the importance of maintaining safe speeds in work zones. The construction zone speed limits are not there just for when there are workers present. Stalled traffic, bumps and holes in the road’s surface, uneven pavement and changing lanes all increase the danger of driving in construction zones. Whether there are workers present or not, it’s important to maintain the work zone speed limit.
School’s Out for Summer
When school lets out for the summer it means there are more drivers on the road. Moreover, they are teen drivers which can be more of a danger on the road. They lack experience and are at an increased risk of being in an accident. Many studies show teen drivers are in more accidents than any other age group.
Summer Vacation Time
When families go on vacations over the summer they are often travel in new places on roads which are unfamiliar to them. They may be driving an RV, or pulling a trailer, which takes extra attention and compounds the danger of distracted driving. This can lead to erratic or unpredictable driving. It’s especially true when there are sights to see that can be distracting.
Dangers of BBQ Holidays
Summer weekends; especially those with holidays like Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, and Labor day, often mean family get-togethers and cookouts with friends. Unfortunately, this can also mean an increased number of drunk drivers on the road. Summer vacation usually falls between Memorial Day and Labor Day. This period has been called "The 100 Deadliest Days" for teen drivers. In fact, nine of the 10 deadliest days for youth on U.S. highways fall between May and August.
According to the National Safety Council (NSC), the deadliest holiday in 2013 was the Fourth of July, which saw an estimated 540 motorist deaths and nearly 58,000 serious injuries, during the travel period, which spans roughly four days. According to the NHTSA, “…a significantly higher number of alcohol-impaired drivers cause nearly twice the number of automotive deaths during summer months than during the rest of the year combined.”
Be Prepared for Summer Heat
The summer heat can also be a danger to a vehicle’s tires. Hot pavement is tough on tires and high heat causes the air inside the tires to expand. This can lead to blowouts in wheels that are worn down. Extra heat also places a strain on belts and hoses. You’ll want to have your fleet of vehicles looked over before a lot of summer driving. You’ll also want to consider how your drivers should be keeping their vehicles cool while also driving efficiently. While opening the windows at freeway speeds can increase the aerodynamic drag, A/C consumes several horsepower. If your fleet includes large SUVs or pickups, drivers are probably are better off with the windows open. However, a smaller low-drag-coefficient car, like a Prius, will suffer more with windows down, so you might be better off with the A/C running on the highway.
The Dangers of Summer Driving
Between the increased number of teen drivers and drunk drivers on the road, more frequent construction, more bicycles and motorcycles, and simply summer heat, there is a lot to be aware of when it comes to driving in the summer. Your fleet drivers need to use extra caution from Memorial Day to Labor Day to avoid violations and accidents and keep themselves and others safe on the road.