The good weather of summer is finally here, and we can all relax when driving, right? Not so fast. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, there is a higher risk of getting into a car accident during the summer months than during any other time of the year. Why is summer driving more dangerous than driving in winter? It’s counterintuitive, but there are a number of reasons drivers should pay more attention during the summer months.
If you ask people what is worse about driving in the summer, almost everyone will give you the same answer: construction. And construction is one very good reason to drive more carefully. Driving in construction is frustrating. It causes slow downs that make drivers more likely to rush to get where they are going when they finally get past construction zones. Between rushing, heightened emotions of dealing with other frustrated drivers and road workers, and the confusion about which lane people are supposed to be in, there are going to be more crashes every year during the summer months.
Another related problem is congestion. Construction is not the only reason for traffic backups. More people are on the road in the summer traveling on vacation or on weekends to events or the beach. Again, unfamiliarity with the roads they are traveling makes people confused and distracted. They’re more likely to be making quick turns or U-turns or driving and squinting at a map on their phone…and hitting something with their cars.
School is also out during summer, and there are more teen drivers on the road, including brand new drivers whose parents didn’t want them practicing when the roads were icy and snowy. During the school year, all of these kids were in school for 7 or more hours a day. During summer, many of them are out looking for something to do. They may not be careless drivers, but they also aren’t experienced, and many of them are impatient and sure of their own invincibility. Unfortunately, that means more accidents and more fatalities. The American Automobile Association calls the 100 days following Memorial Day the “100 Deadliest Days” because an average of 10 people die every day in car crashes involving teens between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
Two other factors contribute to a higher rate of crashes in summer across ages: speeding and drinking. In the wintertime, people know the roads are bad, so they take it slow. In the summer, people assume the roads are safe, so they speed up. Speed is exhilarating…and deadly. So is alcohol. Drinking is a part of the majority of parties and celebrations all year round, but people are more likely to be drinking outside during summer. They drink at baseball games, at the beach, at Fourth of July parties, and at the park. It’s great to relax outside with a beer, but not if you get in your car to drive home impaired and crash it. The ease of being outside in good weather and enjoying yourself too often translates into carelessness on the roads.
People pay better attention driving during other seasons because darkness, rain, snow, and ice are real challenges. In summer when the days are warm and long, they assume everything is fine and allow themselves to zone out or get distracted. Don’t do that this year. As always, drive like everyone else on the road is not paying enough attention. Defensive driving saves lives and prevents automobile damage.