Summer is such a fun and exciting time! Beginning Memorial Day and stretching through Labor Day, families across the country embark on fun-filled summer vacations. In fact, families travel more frequently in the summer months than any other time of year put together.

In Colorado, there are many stunning destinations to visit close to home. However, many families from Colorado also enjoy traveling to exotic locations or taking road trips across the country. While your summer vacation can be filled with fun and unforgettable memories, there are also some dangers to watch out for. Here, we will discuss a few of the dangers of summer travel and offer some helpful safety tips to ensure that your vacation is that much safer.

Summer Automobile Crash Statistics

Here in Colorado, winters can be severe. Inclement weather is responsible for many automobile accidents. However, 29% more people perish and car accidents during the summer months compared to winter. As a matter of fact, the most common time of the year for an automobile accident is during the months of Summer.

From early June through late August, more people will be on the road in Colorado. There are also more large vehicles like RVs to contend with. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, August is the month of the year when most car crashes take place. Car accidents are also more common on weekends than weekdays. So, staying safe in summer is more important than any other time!

Handle the Basics: Oil, Gas, and Tires

Before you embark on any summer road trip, it is important to check your car and make sure it is in good operating condition. Be sure that you have enough gas in your tank, the right amount of air in your tires, and adequate oil in your engine. Forgetting to check these common things is a mistake that many travelers make.

If your engine has a problem or you get a flat tire, things can be very inconvenient. However, these maintenance basics extend beyond simple inconvenience. This is especially true if you will be traveling on the interstate or highway. Mechanical issues, flat tires, and other maintenance problems cause up to 12% of all highway accidents. Pulling over in heavy traffic leads to many accidents every year as well.

Taking a few extra minutes to make sure your vehicle is ready for the trip can help you avoid all kinds of headaches and will keep your loved ones and others on the road that much safer. If you do have to pull over suddenly while on the interstate, signal to other drivers first. Flash your hazards and slow down at a reasonable pace while slowly moving to the right lane. Then, find a safe area to pull off the road where you will not interrupt the flow of traffic. Search for an off-ramp or runaway truck ramp if possible.

Have Your Car Serviced Before You Go

Regular vehicle maintenance like tune-ups, battery checks, and tire rotations can significantly improve your car’s performance. These maintenance activities may also help prevent breakdown accidents and keep you safer as you travel. Servicing your car based on the manufacturer’s recommendations automatically improves your safety statistics as you travel. If you don’t know your vehicle’s service history, it might be wise to schedule an immediate preventive check-up with your mechanic.

Check things such as:

  • Tire pressure, tread wear, and spare availability
  • Functioning headlights
  • Brake lights and turn signals
  • Antifreeze (coolant) levels
  • Fluid levels for oil, brakes, transmission, & power steering
  • Wear and tear on both sides of wiper blades
  • Air conditioning function
  • Blisters, cracks, tears, or bulges on belts and hoses

Never Drive Drunk or Drowsy

Obviously, it is illegal to drink and drive. However, when you are on vacation, it can be easy to forget this simple fact. This is especially true if you are vacationing in a remote location. If you will be driving on uninhabited back roads or enjoying time off-grid, remember that local traffic laws still apply. Never drink before getting behind the wheel and avoid using narcotics as well.

Did you know that driving drowsy can be just as dangerous as driving drunk? In fact, every year approximately 100,000 accidents occur because of sleep deprivation. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows that about 100,000 police-reported, drowsy-driving crashes take place each year, with nearly 800 fatalities and around 50,000 injuries.

There are many reasons that travelers can become sleep deprived or fatigued on the road. Trying to get from point A to point B as quickly as possible so you can start enjoying your vacation makes sense. However, it doesn’t make sense to endanger your family by falling asleep at the wheel.

When you are sleep-deprived, your reaction times and awareness are significantly impacted in a negative way. Going more than 20 hours without sleep is equal to driving with a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.08%. Drowsy drivers are three times more likely to get into an automobile accident.

To avoid the dangers of driving drowsy, be sure to schedule your trip with plenty of breaks and time to rest. If you are driving with others, try to alternate adults behind the wheel. Scheduling time to stop at a hotel in between travel destinations lets you recover and re-energize. If all else fails, find a rest stop where you can pull over and take a nap. There is no reason to risk the safety of your family or other families on the road simply because you are trying to push through the last leg of your trip.

Keep Distractions to a Minimum

When you are traveling with children or other people, it can be easy to get distracted behind the wheel. After all, activities like texting, eating, or even checking your GPS lead to thousands of car accidents every year.

For instance, texting and driving are a huge danger. If you have been driving for a few hours, you may feel comfortable enough to start scrolling through social media or texting while behind the wheel. However, texting for 10 seconds while driving at a speed of over 35 miles an hour is similar to crossing an entire football field with your eyes closed.

It can also be tempting to scroll through your phone if traffic is slow or at an intersection. However, this simple activity leads to many traffic accidents every year as well. Even a minor traffic accident can result in serious injuries if you have children in the car. So, always wait until you are at a full stop before scrolling on your phone, reading text messages, or doing anything else on your mobile device that could take your eyes off of the road.

Traveling with kids in the car can also be very distracting. It can be difficult for children to understand the focus it takes for adults to drive safely. On long road trips, children may grow bored or restless. The best way to avoid distractions from driving with your family is to adequately prepare before getting on the road.

Teach your children proper safety precautions and explain to them why adults need to focus in heavy traffic. Taking a few minutes to explain why you may need to focus can help you avoid an array of unnecessary challenges behind the wheel. Preparing activity bags and snacks before you leave the driveway can also be helpful. If you will be driving with young children, bring another adult along to help with any issues that may arise during your drive.

If all else fails, plan your drive for a relatively distraction-free time of day. For instance, you could plan to leave early in the morning or late at night based on your sleep schedule. At this time, children are more likely to sleep through most of the drive. Plus, there will be less traffic on the road in the wee hours. Just be sure to get plenty of sleep yourself!

Dedicate Adequate Time to Planning and Navigation

Back in the day, navigating new roads required large paper road maps that unfolded and took up a ton of space on the dash. These days, mobile devices offer access to an array of helpful traffic forecasts, road maps, and other handy navigation tools. With that being said, it still isn’t safe to use your phone while you are driving. Instead, appoint someone to be the lead navigator on your trip. This person can be in charge of inputting destinations into your mobile map applications and ensuring that turn-by-turn instructions are available with the audio settings.

Additionally, taking an hour or two to plan out your vacation before you leave can be incredibly beneficial and help prevent a range of potential distractions. Look at hotel locations, decide where you want to book reservations, and plan meals. When you have a game plan in place, it is easier to focus on the road. Plus, you can decide where you want to stop along the way. It is smarter to pre-plan your trip so that you won’t have to stress when it comes time to take an off-ramp.

Always Buckle Up and Make Sure Everyone Else Does, Too

One of the first rules that every child learns is to buckle their seat belt. No matter how old you are, buckling up is a life-saving step on any road trip. Even the best driver in the world should always wear a seatbelt.

Also, be sure that all children in the car are in proper seats and buckled up safely. Children under the age of four usually need to ride in special car seats. Infants should always be in rear-facing car seats as well. Booster seats are available for older children to ensure that seat belt restraints fit properly across the chest.

The seat belt laws for children vary from state-to-state. To stay safe and avoid getting a ticket, make sure that all children in your car are in age-appropriate safety seats with their seat belts fastened at all times as you drive.

Have an Emergency Roadside Kit at the Ready

Whether you find yourself facing sudden inclement weather or lost in a rural mountain town, having an emergency roadside kit ready can help keep everyone safer. Emergency roadside kits help you if your car breaks down and ensure that you have the resources you need in the event of an emergency. While cell phones are definitely necessary items, it is also wise to pack things like a flashlight, jumper cables, and a first-aid kit.

Here’s a quick list of some emergency items to have in your vehicle before you embark on a road trip.

  • First aid kit
  • Reflective triangles or flares
  • Warm change of clothes
  • Cell phone and charger
  • Flashlight
  • Jumper cables
  • Tire pressure gauge
  • Nonperishable food and drinking water
  • Jack for changing a tire
  • Basic repair tools
  • Extra windshield washing fluid
  • Maps for places with no cell service
  • Emergency blankets

Keep an Eye on Your Vehicle’s Temperature Gauge

Vehicles can easily overheat when driving in hot conditions for extended periods of time. If you are taking a long road trip in warm weather, it is important to keep your car from overheating. Overheating typically means that there is a coolant circulation issue. The heat gauge may also indicate that your coolant level is low or that your coolant hoses have a problem.

If the temperature gauge of your vehicle rises outside of the normal range, it is time to slow down and find a mechanic as soon as possible. If you can’t pull over, it can help to turn the heat on in your car. If your engine heat level nears the red zone or your “hot” warning light is on, stop driving immediately and call roadside assistance.

Consider Getting a Roadside Assistance Plan

Most insurance providers offer a roadside assistance package of some kind. For most people, roadside assistance will probably not be necessary. However, if you do end up needing it, you’ll be thankful you have it. With many insurance companies, you can even get roadside assistance for the summer and then cancel it later on at no additional cost.

There are many situations where you may find yourself in need of roadside assistance of some kind. Even if you feel prepared, an array of potential problems can arise on the road. Knowing that there is a provider you can contact in case of an emergency provides travelers with peace of mind.

Roadside assistance can help with things like a flat tire, needing a tow, a dead battery, getting locked out of your car, running out of gas, or breaking down for some other reason. Roadside assistance is ideal for summer vacationers in unfamiliar areas as well.

Signal Your Intentions and Check That Your Lights Work

This one may seem obvious, but driving safely and signaling when you change lanes is a big deal. Using your turn signals can alert other drivers and help them anticipate your intentions on the road. Before heading out for a trip, make sure that your blinkers and brake lights are working properly. You should also check your headlights to ensure that you have good night visibility.

Watch for Wildlife and Stay Alert

The wildlife in Colorado is one of the best parts of living in this area. Deer, elk, pheasants, raccoons, and other critters live in areas all across the state. However, when these cute critters get on the road, accidents can happen. Usually, signs will be posted to let you know if there are likely to be animals near the road. With that being said, you can’t always depend on road signs to predict animals.

  • Always be aware of your surroundings and take extra precautions if you are driving in rural areas, heavily wooded places, near bodies of water like lakes or ponds, or in the countryside.
  • Look ahead and scan the road as well as you can. Whenever possible, use your brightest headlights to illuminate large stretches of road and head of you without blinding other drivers.
  • Use extra caution when driving at dawn and dusk.
  • Always stay in control of your vehicle and avoid swerving at high speeds.
  • Slow down if you see animals near the roadside, as they may indicate the presence of other animals nearby.

Need a Car Accident Attorney? Contact Matlin Injury Law

Sometimes, accidents are unavoidable. If you were injured in an accident that was caused by someone else’s recklessness, negligence, or carelessness, contact our personal injury law firm near Parker, Colorado right away. Our team of skilled personal injury attorneys can help you determine what the best course of legal action to take is. To learn more, call 720-464-3600. You can also schedule a free consultation online. Here at Matlin Injury Law, we will work hard to ensure that you get the best possible outcome for your auto accident case!