Green car driving near the ocean in the summer

As we enter the official Dog Days of Summer in 2020 (July 22 – August 22) it is important to pay special attention to your summer driving to keep you and your loved ones safe on the road.

The number of car accidents increase in the summer months for a few reasons:

  • More road trips = more cars on the road
  • An increase in teen drivers
  • Heat related issues (tire blowouts, mirages)
  • Different types of vehicles on the road (RVs, bikes, motorcycles)
  • Impaired driving (drinking, cell phone use, etc.)

Especially in this COVID-19 environment, more families are choosing to do small road trips, day trips, or go camping instead of taking the traditional summer vacation. In fact, according to many early predictions by the RV industry, 2020 is set to be a record-breaking year for sales and rentals. This means more newbie trailer haulers and an increased risk for accidents. The increase in car and truck traffic on our highways and interstates in the summer months also increases the likelihood of car accidents.

You also need to be more aware of other types of vehicles on the road that you don’t see as much in other seasons. For example, road bikers are more prevalent, especially on some of our more treacherous roads like Geiger Grade and Mt. Rose Highway. Motorcycles are also out and about and can be hard to see.

While teens have been “out of school” for much longer this year with distance learning taking place mid-March through early June, summer is still the time that teens hit the road with friends. Many of these drivers have been behind the wheel for a year or less, and that inexperience coupled with distractions can lead to accidents. AAA calls Memorial Day through Labor Day the 100 Deadliest Days in part to an increase in teen driving over the summer.

The heat of our northern Nevada summers is intense and plays a part in the increase in accidents. Sun in the eyes in the late afternoon can cause significant visual impairment and blind spots. The late afternoon sun can create reflections and mirages on the road that can cause erratic driving, and the shear heat of the day can cause air to expand in worn tires creating blowouts.

5 Tips for avoiding a car accident

Leave at least two car lengths ahead of you: One of the simplest things you can do is leave plenty of space between you and other vehicles. Then if someone zooms in front of you, gets a blown-out tire, or stops suddenly you have room to react and prevent a crash.

Take breaks or trade drivers: If you are on a road trip, make sure you allow time to take breaks, stretch, walk around, get a snack, etc. so that you don’t experience tunnel vision or drowsiness. If it is possible, switch drivers throughout the trip so that you can each get some rest or take a break from the focus that driving requires.

Check your vehicle: Before heading out, check your vehicle to make sure the tires don’t show excessive wear and that the air pressure is within the manufacturer’s recommendations. Also check things like coolant and water levels to safeguard against overheating. Finally make sure you are up to date on maintenance like oil changes and warranty inspections. Handle any recalls that your vehicle may have and get your car serviced by a professional.

Don’t drive impaired: This should be a no brainer – alcohol and driving do not mix. If you’ve consumed alcohol at the BBQ, call a car service or a friend. That DUI (or worse) is not worth the $30 you would have spent on an Uber. Also, leave your phone in your pocket or purse. It is illegal in Nevada to use a mobile phone while driving. If you do need to talk to someone, use a hands-free device or your car’s Bluetooth connection.

Be aware of your surroundings: It is not only road bikes and motorcycles that can be hard to see, in the summer there are also more pedestrians and kids playing outside. Check all your surroundings before pulling out or into a driveway, parking lot, or turning onto a side street. Use your car’s back-up camera, if you have one, to spot bikes in the driveway or a person with a shopping cart before you back-up. Go slow in residential areas and be mindful of blind corners where a kid or pedestrian could shoot out.

By being mindful of summer driving conditions and doing your part to stay safe, we can all enjoy these warm, beautiful months.