10 Summer Driving Hazards

Burnin’ rubber in school zones
Runnin’ over traffic cones
Passin’ semis on the right
Now my knuckles are turning’ white

Goat crossing the roadOnce again, Old Man Winter is stepping aside for bronzed vacationers in Bermuda shorts to take to the streets.  And, once again, this rise in temperature will be accompanied by a rise in car accidents:  The multitude of drivers good and bad, skilled and inexperienced, timid and brazen makes the summer months of June, July, and August the 100 Deadliest Days of the year.  Not only is the summer season more fraught overall; the American Automotive Association found that 7 out of 10 of the deadliest days of the year are between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

Hopefully without putting a damper on the festivities, a number of driving hazards arise or worsen in the summertime which demand the attention of everyone who intends to use the roads at any point throughout the sunny season.  The hazards to which summertime travelers in particular are exposed are listed below:

1.  Vacationers

The most intuitive seasonal driving risk is simply a dramatic increase in traffic on account of the outings, errands, and social calls that inevitably accompany warmer weather and general leisure.  The density of drivers combined with the festive atmosphere prove even more dangerous than inclement winter weather:  1 in 3 traffic fatalities are taken in the summertime.  (It should be noted that even low-traffic rural areas are risky, as dangerous circumstances are more likely to catch the overly confident driver unawares.)

2.  Drivers’ Ed. Students

Unfortunately, this is the environment where most new drivers get their land legs.  The end of the [high] school year is marked by hordes of 15- and 16-year-olds thronging classrooms once again to obtain driver permits and the roads to gain driving experience for their licenses.  Whether or not the novice drives like crazy, the roads in the summertime are unforgiving to rookie mistakes.  In 2010, 7 16- to 19-year-olds died in car accidents each day, usually because the young drivers didn’t understand the risks.

3.  Road Construction

Road construction is a running joke on a running process in Utah, but the ire behind these jokes is justified:  1,000 people each year are killed in road construction accidents.  As irksome as it is to reroute an excursion, staying on the lookout for construction zones and steering clear of them is less likely to ruin a trip than failure to do so.

4.  Eaters and Drinkers

Distracted drivers are a consistent threat, but the end of the snowy season heralds the overconfidence mentioned in Item 1.  Drivers happy not to be battling blizzard conditions anymore may forget that sneaking bites is never really a good idea.  In fact, a 2009 study blames eating and drinking behind the wheel for 80% of car accidents and 65% of near-accidents.

5.  Animals

Since the mating season for Utah’s deer population is in the fall, they spend the summer eating well in preparation.  Their quest for an optimal diet sometimes leads them into the path of human traffic.  Deer vs. car accidents are not only a menace to wildlife, but to the car’s human occupants and should be avoided for both reasons by particular attentiveness during the summertime.

6.  Flash Flooding

The summer thaw is not always a graceful process—sometimes it takes the form of summer storms with flash floods.  The good news is that hydroplaning avoidance requires many of the same skills Utah drivers spend all winter honing on icy roads; and whether or not they have the patience to apply these skills is the real question.

7.  Bicyclists/Motorcyclists

Another form of wildlife that crops up on the road in increased numbers in the summertime is cyclists.  Kaleidoscopic bicyclists and caravans of leather clad motorcyclists take to the streets to stretch their legs, enjoy the scenery, and contribute further to summer traffic.  While the attitude still pervades in the U.S. that bicycles and motorcycles are recreational vehicles playing second fiddle to 4-wheeled vehicles, these riders have the same legal rights as other motorists and should be respected.

8.  Overheating Engines

Even aside from elevated use, summertime is more demanding on cars because of higher temperatures and heavy reliance on air conditioning.  If the thermostat, coolant levels, etc. are not equal to the task of maintaining automotive stasis during the warmer months, the engine may overheat, resulting in compromised responsiveness (which is all too essential to safety in any context).

9.  Eye Strain

Bright sunlight may not call for the use of windshield wipers the way falling slush does, but it can still necessitate long periods of squinting.  Unrelenting glare can compromise visibility as badly as snow and fog and affect long-term ocular health.  Thus, sunglasses may be required for long road trips.

10.  Increased Tire Pressure

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that 5% of car accidents are caused by improper tire pressure.  In the summertime, the increased temperature raises air pressure inside tires about 1-2 psi for every 10 degrees.  Since a degree of tire compression is necessary to absorb unevenness in the road, overinflation places a greater strain on tires and increases the risk of a blowout.

It is the responsibility of every driver to foster an environment of safety and respect by exercising caution and vigilance.  When car accidents result from a default of this responsibility, compensation is owed to the victims—often more than they are led to believe.  If you are suffering in the wake of a car accident, and the amount you are being offered falls short of your requirements, personal injury attorneys Christensen & Hymas can tell you if you’re smelling a rat.  To request a free initial consultation, call their Draper office at (801) 506-0800; or visit UtahAccidentBooks.com for a free 7 Biggest Mistakes booklet.

Image courtesy of Brian Snelson

Ken Christensen
Partner, Founder at Christensen & Hymas
Ken Christensen is the founding partner of Christensen & Hymas. He is an avid cyclist, loves baseball, and enjoys spending time with his family in the outdoors.

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