You might think the end of winter means the end of hazards on the road, but summer driving has its own potential dangers. It’s no fun to have your vacation plans interrupted by problems you could have avoided by preparing in advance. As you get ready to hit the road for a much-needed break, follow these summer driving safety tips.
1. Start with Servicing
Whether you vacation far away or take a lot of day trips, all that driving takes its toll. Head to your mechanic for a full tune-up before the summer travel season starts to make sure your car is ready. It’s a good idea to have the oil changed and the fluids checked even if it hasn’t been too long since your last service appointment. Your battery also needs to be in good condition, or you could find yourself stranded somewhere in need of a jump!
2. Maintain Good Tire Condition
Take a look at your tires as part of your car’s seasonal checkup. The age-old “penny test” works as an indicator of the level of wear. If you can see the top of Honest Abe’s head when you stick a penny in the tread upside-down, it’s time for a new set. Putting this off could mean blowing a tire when the worn rubber meets hot pavement.
If wear on your tires is uneven but not serious, having them rotated and aligned should be enough. Your mechanic can tell you which option is safest and help you find the best tires for your vehicle if replacements are necessary.
3. Use Child Safety Seats Properly
All kids who aren’t tall enough for a regular seatbelt to fit the right way should ride in a safety seat. Get a seat of the right size and configuration for their age and weight, and secure it according to the manufacturer’s instructions. There should be very little, if any, “wiggle room” once the seat is in place. If you can’t secure the seat properly yourself, get help from a certified child passenger safety technician.
4. Be Mindful of Bikes
Sunny summer days bring out more cyclists and motorcycle enthusiasts, and you need to take notice of who you’re sharing the road with as you travel. Watch for anyone merging into traffic, turning next to your car at intersections or crossing the street when you’re at a stop sign. If you don’t know the signals cyclists use to indicate turns or stops, now is a good time to learn so that you can respond appropriately.
5. Don’t Drive Distracted
Cell phones, rowdy kids, restless pets and even the radio can all be major distractions on summer trips. Navigating to unfamiliar places adds another element to the mix, and before you know it, you’ve gone ten miles without fully paying attention to the road in front of you.
Distracted driving isn’t just dangerous – it can be fatal. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 3,166 people died due to distracted driving in 2017. Fortunately, it’s easy to remove sources of distraction. Use the “do not disturb” function on your phone, and put someone else in charge of navigation. If you’re driving alone, review the route before heading out so that you don’t get any sudden surprises from your GPS. When traveling with kids and pets, make sure everyone is properly restrained and has something entertaining to do for the duration of the trip.
You and your family can enjoy summer travel more if you know you’re safe. Do some smart preparation before you head out, and you’ll be set to avoid the dangers of summer driving.
About the Author
Theresa “Sam” Houghton is a writer, speaker and health coach from Troy, NY. She’s a regular contributor to NutritionStudies.org, and her work has appeared in the Honest Weight Food Co-Op Coop Scoop, Natural Awakenings Magazine and the NutritionFacts.org 2017 Daily Dozen calendar. She has been a featured guest on Focus on Albany, WMAC’s Food Friday and the Just Ask David podcast. When she's not writing or cooking, Sam likes to read and study the Bible, cook tasty plant-based food and knit socks.You can find out more about Sam at GreenGutWellness.com.