The warm weather, with its siren calls of beaches, boating, and other types of summer fun, often means we hit the roads much more often than we do the rest of the year. With our children out of school, summer is the most logical time to take vacations. And, with the price of airline tickets seemingly going only in one direction—up—road trips have become the affordable alternative for families.
But driving is actually less safe than flying, and that can be worrisome. In South Carolina, nearly 1,000 people died on our roads during 2016 alone, according to the SC Department of Public Safety. Add that to the fact that the summertime can be a dangerous time on our roads, and it only makes sense to do our utmost to arrive alive.
Here are the top driving tips for the summer that can help keep you and your loved ones safe this summer:
- Inspect your vehicle before taking a road trip. As the Boy Scouts might say, “Be prepared.” Have your local mechanic (or do it yourself) check that the basics are in good shape: battery, radiator, tire tread, brakes, hoses, wires, and all fluid levels. It doesn’t hurt to have an emergency kit in your trunk, such as a flashlight, blankets, basic tools, jumper cables, flat tire apparatus and spare, and a first aid kit. Don’t forget extra snacks and plenty of water.
- Avoid construction zones and peak drive times. Sometimes, bad traffic is unavoidable, but if you can sidestep it, you’ll not only save time—and wear and tear on your nerves—you’ll also lower your chances of having a multi-car accident. Drive early and let the kids sleep, then stop for a meal or a long break before continuing. Plan meals or other breaks during rush-hour periods if possible. Remember that your GPS system, whether in your car or in your phone, can help you circumvent construction and jams. But to avoid distraction, turn the navigational duties over to the person in the passenger seat.
- Expect more traffic on the road, and be defensive, especially at intersections, on ramps, and off ramps. Summertime means more people driving, and not just during rush hour. Intersections, a trouble spot for accidents year-round, become especially problematical as the number of vehicles on our highways increases and tempers get short. Such accidents are not only a problem when you are far from home. In our state, Columbia’s intersection of Interstate 20 and U.S. Highway experienced more crashes than anywhere else in SC from 2011 to 2015, with 669 wrecks. In the tri-county area (Berkeley, Charleston, and Dorchester counties), the most dangerous intersection happened to be Interstate 26 and Ashley Phosphate Road, with 629 accidents from 2011 to 2015. In Greenville County, it pays to be cautious at the intersections of Interstate 85 and Pelham Road, and Interstate 385 and Woodruff Road.
- Obey all traffic rules related to sharing the road with others, including yielding to pedestrians and those on two-wheeled transport. During nice weather you’ll encounter more people on bicycles, motorcycles, and on foot. Remember that you are bigger and heavier in your vehicle, so anticipate that people might make mistakes. Stay alert and aware of others around you as you share the road.
- Stop frequently, and don’t drive at all if you are too sleepy to do so. The general rule of thumb is to take a break from driving every 100 miles or every two hours, whichever is shorter. Drowsy driving can be as dangerous as drunk driving because fatigue impairs our reflexes as much as two stiff drinks can. Few destinations are so important that your trip can’t be delayed for a 20-minute break.
- While on your home turf, be alert for out-of-town drivers. Summer means that people from other locations may come to visit your home town. This is never truer than if you live near the beach, resort areas, or live in a destination town with much to see and do or that holds frequent festivals. Mistakes behind the wheel are always more likely to occur when someone doesn’t know the roads. So if you see an out-of-state plate, or notice a driver who appears overly nervous and unsure, give them a break—and plenty of room. Expect unexpected turns and maneuvers from such drivers.
- Never drive under the influence of anything. Remember that “under the influence” can mean suffering ill effects from prescription drugs and also from over-the-counter medication such as cold remedies that can make you sleepy. And distracted driving? Let someone else handle anything involving your phone or your vehicle’s infotainment system. If you are in the passenger seat, try to keep children from distracting the driver.