Take a Summertime Drive to Safety
Safe driving is a four-season priority for Brad Plamann. An instructor at the Wisconsin Decision Driving Center, Plamann says safety always matters.
"The basic driving fundamentals--if you follow those, it really doesn't matter what the time of the year is," says Plamann, whose center, at Fox Valley Technical College, in Appleton, Wis., trains about 2,000 truck drivers a year.
At the same time, Plamann concedes that no season drives home the importance of auto safety more than summer.
"The volume of traffic is heavier. The weekends are short. Everybody's in a hurry to get where they need to go. And sometimes in that haste, we forget about the things that we need to do to keep ourselves safe," Plamann says.
Summer is prime time for driving--and for road construction, and for the presence of children, bikes, and motorcycles. The days are longer. More alcohol is consumed at picnics, ballparks, and outdoor festivals. Add the variables of intense heat and sudden rainstorms, and you have greater potential for hazardous driving conditions.
"It's a heightened time for travel. More people are just out and about, which increases the chance of a crash," says Delisa Davis, public relations coordinator for the Highway Safety Research Center at the University of North Carolina, in Chapel Hill.
Come summer, Americans really hit the road. Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, long-distance car trips cover nearly 600 million miles, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics at the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Of course, you can't control traffic, road repairs, or the weather, but there's plenty you can do--with your car, its occupants, as well as your trip preparation--that can contribute to safe summer driving.
If your car isn't up to the drive, visit your credit union for an auto loan.
"The effects of neglected maintenance over long winters often show up under hot or rainy conditions," says Sara Weis, public affairs coordinator in Washington, D.C., for AAA.
Each summer, AAA gets more than seven million calls for roadside assistance. You can prevent many breakdowns by taking your vehicle to a qualified mechanic in advance. It's also wise to give the car a once-over yourself before your trip. Pay particular attention to:
The driver and passengersPay attention to the human cargo. The objective is to make everyone comfortable and secure so that the driver can focus on driving. Specific considerations:
Anticipation plays a key role in safety. That's why it pays to call ahead, use the Internet, or check with an auto club such as AAA to find out about construction, traffic, and weather scenarios into which you'll be driving.
Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, long-distance car trips cover nearly 600 million miles.
"Keep your car radio tuned to a station that provides regular weather and traffic updates to help you avoid treacherous driving conditions and storm-snarled traffic," Weis says.
And if you can't avoid such conditions, be mindful of how to drive in them. Some tips:
Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for every age from three to 33, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Speeding contributes to about one of three fatal crashes each year, taking more than 13,000 lives and costing $40 billion.
Planning ahead and giving yourself plenty of time can save you from becoming a statistic.
Use maps to estimate how long it takes to get where you're going. Leave early to allow yourself extra time. Figure in rest stops, refueling, and food breaks. Make lodging reservations in advance and consult travel guides so you know what to look forward to at your journey's end--and to schedule interesting side trips.
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