According to recent Department of Transportation data, summer -- not winter as many might expect -- is the most dangerous driving season. Eighteen percent more fatal accidents occurred during the summer months of June through August in 2012 compared to the winter months of December through February. Multiple factors contribute to this spike in crashes including increased road congestion due to vacation travel and a rise in road work.
To help prepare for this summer driving season, here are a few tips to ensure that your next road trip is a safe one.
1. Check your tires to stay safe and save money. Well-maintained tires provide protection against avoidable breakdowns and crashes, improved vehicle handling, better fuel economy, and increased tire life. Keeping tire pressure at the manufacturer's recommended level increases fuel efficiency by one mile per gallon of gas -- something that's even more important in the summer when gas prices rise. To check if your tires need to be replaced, insert a quarter into the tire's tread, with Washington's head toward the tire. If no portion of his head is covered, the tread is below 1/8 of an inch and you should consider replacing your tires.
2. When packing for a trip, don't exceed your car's payload capacity. Your owner's manual has information about the maximum weight of all cargo and passengers your vehicle can safely carry. Before heading out, also double check that you can clearly see out of all your windows.
3. Manage glare and heat. Keep sunglasses handy and use a sun shield beneath your windshield when parked to keep your car's interior heat down. Never leave a child or a pet unattended in a vehicle. The summer sun can also dehydrate you during long roads trips so always travel with plenty of water.
4. Manage summer allergies. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, 1 in 5 Americans suffers from an allergy that impacts their daily life. Driving with distracting allergy symptoms such as runny eyes, frequent sneezing, congestion and exhaustion can be dangerous. Plus, many over-the-counter and prescription allergy medications contain ingredients that make you drowsy. If you're planning to drive, talk to your doctor or pharmacist to make sure your allergy medications won't impact your alertness or energy. Insulate your car as much as possible, clean and change air filters regularly and consider using plastic, washable floor mats instead cloth ones for easier cleaning and less moisture retention to keep allergy symptoms at bay.
5. Summer storms -- and even sun showers -- require extreme caution. Roads become very slippery in the first few minutes of rainfall because the rain mixes with the oil and dirt on the road. It takes about 30 minutes of steady rain to wash the oil and dirt off the road.
- Never share lanes with motorcycles, as they also have use of the complete traffic lane.
- Increase your following distance to four seconds or more when behind motorcycles.
- Constantly scan the roadway in front, to the rear, and to the sides of your vehicle for motorcyclists and bicyclists.
- When going through construction zones, use extreme caution, follow all road signs and look out for pedestrians or workers.
Where will you be traveling this summer? Let us know your favorite summertime destinations and your best advice for getting there safely.
For more tips on how you can stay safe and save money on the roads, brush up on your driving skills with an AARP Smart Driver Course in your community -- you may be eligible for an insurance discount. Happy travels!