Official figures show we’re at greater risk of an accident or injury on the roads during the lazy, hazy days of summer.
Whereas in bad weather most of us tend to slow down and take greater care while behind the wheel, when the sun comes out we often become a little blase. Realising that we have what seems to be a clear road in front of us, we can easily be encouraged to put our foot down, turn up the music - and quite possibly, tune out from many of the dangers all around us.
Research by online insurance company Esurance has found that there is often a steady build-up towards a plateau in both driver and pedestrian casualties as we head towards the summer holidays. And while some reasons for this - detailed below - are obvious consequences of there generally being more people out and about, others are the result of conditions which we can be expected to anticipate, and therefore reduce the risks involved.
The Big Dangers To Look Out For
- More young and/or inexperienced drivers on the road: While we can all relate to many young people’s desire to hit the road and exploit the freedom being able to get behind the wheel brings us, their presence does mean an unavoidable jump in crashes and casualties. Not only do drivers have to contend with this, but lots more young people are also walking or getting on their bikes - and this means there’s even more to be aware of as you’re driving.
- More drivers taking to unfamiliar roads: All the time the weather isn’t the best, we’re inclined not to venture off roads we use regularly. But summer brings with it an urge to explore new places - and of course, this can mean you’re uncertain of where exactly you’re going, and so might need to make turnings without being able to properly anticipate them. It means all drivers need to be extra wary of other possibly turning without indicating, or just driving extra-slowly looking for their turn.
- Greater risk of a puncture - or even a blowout: High temperatures can play havoc with the rubber of your tyres, according to the AA. The pressure of the air in your tyres automatically increases as the tyres get hotter, and this can exert extra strain on their outer walls, and potentially cause bulges or cracks. And don’t think of letting some air out of your tyres to compensate - low pressure adds to the friction, which again, causes heat to build up. So you need to be sure to check your tyre pressures, and adjust them if needed, more regularly.
- Tiredness: On longer journeys than you usually undertake, it’s easy to feel the pressure to keep plugging on towards your destination. But according to road safety charity, Brake, as many as a quarter of all road accidents are caused by driver fatigue. The fact that we commonly drive for long distances on motorways or dual carriageways, on the way to our holiday destinations, exacerbates the risks, it adds. Planning ahead, particularly for journeys which involve large amounts of unfamiliar roads, can help, particularly if regular breaks from being behind the wheel are factored in.
- Sneezing season: Summer is a wonderful time to be out and about - unless you suffer from hay fever. And with an estimated 10 million sufferers of the allergy in England, you won’t venture far before you bump into one of them. The AA reckons that, if you sneeze while driving at 70mph, you lose your vision for 100 metres. So if you’re one of the unfortunate sufferers, you should be prepared to slow down gently and drop back from the car in front if you feel a sneeze coming on. And if you regularly drive during the height of the pollen season, ask your garage or dealer about pollen filters for your car.
Those Dreaded Queues
- Greater numbers of slow-moving vehicles: Activity in construction and agriculture both rise sharply as the weather improves. These in turn bring more big, lumbering working vehicles onto the roads. While they have every right to be there, getting stuck behind them is never pleasant - but you should try to avoid getting impatient, as this is sure to affect your concentration, and put you at greater risk of an accident. So keep your cool, and don’t be tempted to take risks by trying to overtake when you can’t be absolutely sure the road ahead is clear.
- Sun and heat: ‘We should be so lucky’, you might be tempted to say. But the sun is massively powerful, and in a clear sky, especially when it’s rising or setting, can easily distract you. So keep a pair of sunglasses handy, and always use the sun visors in your vehicle - but be sure not to let them obscure the road ahead. To help keep your vision clear, always keep both internal and external surfaces of your windscreen clean and smear-free. Adding screenwash additive in your washer bottle along with the water can help prevent insects sticking to your screen and then creating smear marks when you use your windscreen wipers to try to remove them.
- Visual distractions: It’s all very well to be out on the road in winter, when everyone’s well wrapped up against the weather. But when you’re driving in summer, you can encounter all manner of things which can, however momentarily, take your focus off the road. Remember, there’s little to no chance that the attractive young girl or man in the cycling shorts will pay any attention to you - so don’t be tempted to let your eyes wander. Because if they do, the next time you look up, you might be surrounded by people in medical masks…
Take A Leaf Out Of The Scouts’ Book - Be Prepared
Make no bones about it, driving in summer is, in the main, really enjoyable. And but for the fact that there are so many other things to keep your eyes out for, it could even, at times, be called relaxing. But you’re still in control of a couple of tons of metal moving along at considerable speed, so it’s incumbent on you to be able to do so safely.
And especially if you’re heading off on a long trip, getting you car checked over before you go can help ensure that you’re well prepared for encountering any of the hazards outlined above. So it might be a good idea to book a pre-holiday service check using Mycarneedsa.com.
Do you have any tips for preparing for a summer journey that you’d like to share? We’d be grateful to receive them via Twitter or Facebook.