One would think that with warmer temperatures and roadways free of ice, snow and sleet, that this would be the safest driving season. But summer brings with it its own driving hazards. According to a 24-year study of driving accidents conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the summer months of June, July and August have 29 percent more traffic fatalities than the winter months, and August followed by July are the two deadliest months on the road.
This year, with COVID-19, indications already show that it may be a particularly hazardous summer for drivers. Even with the pandemic keeping people at home, there has been an alarming jump in crashes on our roadways. According to the National Safety Council, the number of car accidents is already 14 percent higher than this time last year.
What makes summer driving dangerous? There are several reasons.
More pedestrian traffic
During the warmer months, kids and families are outside during the day, walking, playing games, chasing balls and often not paying attention to the street. This year, with most parents at home during the day and camps canceled, we may see even more outside activity. With that in mind, it is especially important for drivers to be aware and watchful of their surroundings.
Bicycles and motorcycles
Drivers have to share the road with more cyclists and bikers who are finally able to take their vehicles out after the long winter. Numerous accidents happen every year when bikes, motorcycles and cars maneuver through traffic alongside one another without paying adequate attention to the other. Before you make any kind of lane change, open your doors, begin parallel parking or come to a sudden stop, check your mirrors and the road around you to make sure it’s safe.
It might be their first summer or their tenth. But we all know the inexperience of being a young driver. Be patient and give them room to learn.
Perhaps they are in a vacation state of mind, on their phones, eating, smoking, etc. There are many reasons that a driver may not be paying attention. We wish we didn’t have to say it, but we do. You must drive defensively and watch out for inattentive drivers.
The summer months see a substantial increase in both alcohol-involved crashes and DUIs, especially around holiday weekends. It might be alcohol, marijuana or other substances. It doesn’t matter what the substance is, driving under the influence can be deadly. Report any strange driving to local law enforcement. It may save a life.
We should note that numerous studies have shown that substance use disorders increase during a time of crisis, and early numbers indicate that many have turned to alcohol or drugs as a way to cope with COVID-19. This summer there will likely be fewer activities such as festivals, BBQ’s or Fourth of July events, where people typically consume drugs or alcohol. But we’ll all need to be especially vigilant as people are hitting the roads after months of substance use in isolation.