All along the northern hemisphere it is getting warmer, summer is almost officially here. It is a time of exploring, of vacations and outdoor activities. A time when we go for a drive, ride a motorcycle or bicycle, or even take a walk. Summertime is also a time when traffic fatalities increase because of more vehicles on the road. With that increased risk, summertime is a time for safety. In this article you will find 6 tips for your safety while enjoying the warm weather.
Fatalities on the Rise
According to the National Safety Council, over the past six months, traffic fatalities have increased every month when compared to the same time period in 2014. Because of lower gas prices, and an improved economy, people are once more traveling. However, it is during summer when we are the most apt to spend time behind the steering wheel. It is time when we must all take steps to be safer.
Warm Weather Road Safety Concerns
During the warm weather there are a number of traffic safety issues that rise to the forefront. Below are some of those critical topics and why they are important.
Drunk Driving – with the 4th of July, Memorial Day, and Labor Day, many people are out enjoying the holidays with friends and family. Sadly, many times it includes alcohol with someone getting behind the wheel and driving. Throughout the year, approximately one-third of all fatalities are due to impaired driving, that is one person dying every 51 minutes.
Speeding – It is estimated that over thirty percent of all fatal crashes are due to speeding-related crashes, defined as racing, exceeding the speed limit, or driving too fast for conditions. Speeding reduces your ability to respond appropriately. It extends the time and distance required when faced with a dangerous situation and young males are most likely to be in speeding-related crashes.
Drowsy Driving – With more sunlight, and long days of driving, fatigue becomes an important issue. While difficult to get an accurate estimate, it is believed that approximately 16.5 percent of fatal crashes involve a drowsy driver. Clearly, a person driving on a lack of sleep is someone looking to be in a crash. Just like alcohol, sleep deprivation impairs our ability to drive safely. Being awake for 18 hours and then driving is similar to driving at a .05 BAC (Blood Alcohol Content). Twenty-four hours without sleep is comparable to trying to drive at a .10 BAC, which is over the per se BAC limit for alcohol.
Distracted Driving – One of the most common forms of distracted driving involves using a cell phone, whether it is texting or when you are talking on the phone. It is important to remember that drivers who are talking on a cell phone are just as impaired as those who consume too much alcohol. While on the phone, our brain is not focused on driving; multi-tasking is the great myth, especially while driving.
Motorcycle Safety – Motorcyclists will be out in force with the warmer weather and with more people buying motorcycles, fatal crashes involving motorcycles are on the rise, yet helmet usage is on the decline. In 2011, there were almost 8½ million registered motorcycles, up from 5 million in 2002. And, while motorcycles account for only 3% of all registered vehicles and a mere 0.7% of all vehicle miles traveled, the 4,957 motorcyclists killed in 2012 accounted for 15% of all traffic fatalities.
Bicycle Safety – In 2012, 726 Bicyclists were killed and an additional 49,000 were injured in motor vehicle traffic crashes. Bicyclist deaths accounted for 2 percent of all motor vehicle traffic fatalities, and made up 2 percent of the people injured in traffic crashes during the year. The average age of bicyclists killed in traffic crashes was 43. During the past 10 years, there has been a steady increase in the average age of bicyclists killed and injured
These six issues are some of the most common crash factors – and in many ways, they are the easiest to correct. You CAN make a difference. These kind of fatalities are human caused – fatalities that can be stopped by everyone one of us taking steps to be safer on the road.
Tips for Your Safety
Let’s look at those same six issues and learn how you can be a lifesaver. For each issue, there are easy actions you can take that will make an impact.
Drunk Driving – Are you attending a gathering that involves alcohol? Before leaving home, plan to get back safely by:
– Having a designated driver who drinks no alcohol, or
– Having a taxi phone number available and then using it, or
– Hiring a shuttle or limousine, or
– Arranging for a hotel, or staying with your hosts on the night of the party
If you are walking back home, keep in mind that walking impaired can be just as dangerous as drunk driving. Make sure to have a sober friend walk with you.
Speeding – Slow it down and drive based on the conditions. Speed limits are set for a reason, and they are usually based on a number of factors, including road conditions, traffic patterns and the surrounding area. Around the globe it is estimated that just a 5% reduction in the average speed would reduce the number of fatal crashes by 30%. Slow it down and arrive alive.
Drowsy Driving – The only “cure” to drowsy driving is getting enough sleep. Keep in mind that sleep is a necessity, not a luxury. Adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep a day and adolescents need 9 to 10 hours. If you are driving and you notice the indicators, it is time to pull over at the next exit or rest stop and either get some sleep for the night, or at the very least take a nap. If you have an alert passenger with you, let that person drive. And as a general rule, when taking a long trip, be sure to schedule regular breaks every couple of hours to help remain alertness.
Distracted Driving – With the phone next to us while driving, the temptation to use it is huge. The easiest way to avoid the temptation is to not put yourself in that situation. When you get in the car, turn the phone off and put it in the trunk, in the glove box, in a purse or backpack and put those out of reach. No phone call or text is worth the additional risk. Put the phone away and focus on your driving.
Motorcycle Safety – For motorcyclists, always wear your helmet—the most important safety feature available. For everyone else, always remember to “Share the Road.” Motorcyclists have the same rights and privileges as any other motor vehicle on the road.
Bicycle Safety – It is important for both bicyclists and drivers to remember that bicycles are considered vehicles on the road. Bicycles have the same rights and responsibilities as any car or truck. That means drivers must respect bicyclists’ right to be on the road, and bicyclists must follow the rules of the road. And motorists, you need to always give three feet minimum space when passing a bicyclist.
And for every situation, when you are in a vehicle, always wear your seat (safety) belt. It is the most effective safety feature in your car.
Road Safety Is Not Just for Summertime
Of course, these tips apply not only during the summer, but also during the rest of the year. Road safety is a year-round endeavor for everyone.
You may never know about the life you saved, but know that by implementing each of these steps, you are making our roads safer. By implementing these tips, you are absolutely a lifesaver. What behavior are you going to change? Let me know in the comments below.