While snow, ice, and rain during the winter present significant threats to your safety on the road, summer has its own unique driving challenges because of the extreme heat and beaming sun. Summer represents some of the deadliest road conditions of the year, from an increase in traffic to the sun’s glare and unpredictable weather patterns. Here are some essential summer safe driving tips to follow for staying on the road while enjoying the warm weather.
1. Preventative Maintenance
Regular preventative maintenance is crucial for any car owner to prolong the life of their car, but it is vital in the summer. Extremely high temperatures can speed up the wear and tear on your vehicle, from wearing down your tire tread to eroding fan belts. These issues can lead to brake failure or the engine overheating, making it dangerous for you to drive during the summer. Increase the frequency with which you perform maintenance tasks to once a week. Ensure you check the tire pressure and tread depth using the Penny Test. Check the fluid levels, including engine oil, water, and coolant, before any long trip, and always carry an extra bottle of coolant in your trunk. Open the hood and check the drive belts that control the engine cooling system and the air conditioner. Look for signs of wear and take your car to a mechanic if the belts need replacing.
2. Invest in a Car Cover
Protecting your vehicle safe is vital for optimal performance. Although parking indoors is a great choice to avoid the hot weather, not everyone has a garage or carport to store their vehicle. Leaving your car parked outdoors in the sun or even under the shade of a tree can fade the paintwork, expose your car to animal droppings that can erode paint and lead to corrosion, and overheat sensitive electrical components in your vehicle. Car covers made from high-quality materials, such as polyester with a reflective polyurethane coating, are ideal for preventing heat absorption. Look for covers made with multiple layers, including a soft fleece inner lining to protect your car against scratches. The cover should also offer features such as an elastic hem or cable-lock system so that it fits snugly around your vehicle and stops small animals and pests from making a home in the wheel wells or engine in an attempt to beat the summer heat.
3. Consult the Weather Reports
Summer doesn’t always mean sunshine and clear blue skies; low-pressure systems and humidity can cause sudden downpours, thunderstorms, and high winds. Depending on your region, early summer could also mean tornadoes or hurricanes. Poor weather means slippery roads and compromised visibility. In addition to driving more slowly, always check the weather forecast before venturing out on the road, and tune in to the NOAA radio channel to track any potentially dangerous weather systems in your area. You should also carry an all-weather car cover to protect your car if you need to park outdoors after commuting to work.
4. Pay Attention to the Calendar
Summer is the time for family vacations, day trips to the lake, festivals, and other warm weather activities, making June, July, and August some of the most dangerous months to be on the road. Certain days during these months are busier than others, including the 4th of July weekend. This steep increase in traffic makes for hazardous driving conditions, so it is crucial to be extra vigilant of your surroundings on the road. If you plan to travel this summer, check the calendar and try to organize your departure for a day or two before the roads are set to become congested. Consult ViaMichelin or other traffic apps for real-time traffic updates to plan the safest route.
5. Extend Your Safe Following Distance
It typically takes the average person about 1.5 seconds to react to a change in the road conditions, such as an accident or obstacle. Then it takes approximately 1.5 seconds for a driver to apply the brakes. This is why most defensive driving instructors recommend keeping at least three seconds distance between you and the next car. During the summer heat, when there are more cars on the road and driver distractions are at a high, you’ll need to increase your stopping distance. Stay at least 4-6 seconds away from the vehicle in front of you. This provides ample time for you to react in case of an emergency.
6. Protect Your Eyes
Eye protection is crucial for driving safe during the summer months. Just like your skin, your eyes can experience sunburn due to the increase in UV exposure and glare from the road. Protect your eyes with polarized sunglasses that filter 99-100% of UV light and at least 75% of visible light.
Windshields accumulate more dust and grime during the summer due to the increased moisture and dust in the air. These streaks amplify the sun’s glare and make it more challenging to clearly see the road and other drivers. While polarized sunglasses can protect your eyesight and minimize glare, you can prevent your windshield from getting dirty by regularly using a high-quality car cover. Opt for a lightweight, breathable model that allows moisture to evaporate from the car’s surface and repels dirt.
7. Stay Safe Hydrated
Driver concentration plays a significant role in safely navigating the roads, but dehydration can lead to poor focus and distracted driving during the summer. It is critical to stay hydrated while driving, so keep a water bottle in your cup holder and another in your trunk or behind the seat.
Also, ensure passengers in your vehicle have water and that your air conditioner is working correctly. When the outside temperature is 80-100°F, the inside of your car can reach a scorching 130-170°F if left in the direct sun. These temperature extremes can lead to dehydration and heatstroke if you don’t replenish lost fluids regularly.
Stay Safe on the Roads This Summer
The summer months present some of the most hazardous driving conditions of the year due to higher traffic flow and increased driver distractions. The heat can also wreak havoc on your vehicle’s engine and exterior, making your car dangerous to drive.
Preventative maintenance and keeping your car covered can minimize environmental damage to your vehicle. You also need to take precautions while on the road, including driving defensively, monitoring your surroundings and the road conditions, and scheduling any long trips at less busy times of the week.