Summer is time for family vacations and the traditional road trips. However, next to the fall/winter holidays, it is the most accident-prone time of the year. Factors involved are numerous; fatigue, road unfamiliarity, construction, and (of course) kid distractions!
Unfortunately for a family of 5 from California, their summer vacation ended in tragedy. They were traveling from their home in Southern California and somewhere in Utah their SUV went out of control. Highway patrol suspect that the wife of the couple fell asleep at the wheel. Tragically, both parents died instantly and the three children are in critical condition. What makes this story more tragic is that this could have probably been prevented with some advanced planning and a good night’s rest.
According to a recent National Highway Traffic Safety Administration report, most crashes occur during late night and early morning hours. Over 56,000 motor vehicle crashes are due to drowsiness and fatigue alone. It is understandable that to avoid heavy congestion, people like to drive early or late, but if you are tired, don’t risk it. Getting a good night’s rest before a trip will keep you in a better frame of mind, give you more patience with the kids saying, “are we there yet?”, and of course, help you arrive at your destination safely.
Besides a good night’s rest, vehicle maintenance is one of best things you can do to reduce the risk of serious personal injury. Our summer breaks are far too short and sometimes we try to pack too much into our one week vacation!
Before your summer road trip, here are a few maintenance items to check before hitting the road:
1. Check your tire pressure. Tires without enough air pressure can build up heat and can lead to tread separation and blowouts. A good rule of thumb is while you are changing your oil every 5,000 miles, rotate your tires and check the pressure at the same time.
2. Hot weather is brutal for your car battery. Have it check, add water, if appropriate and check the cables.
3. After failed batteries, broken belts and hoses are reported to be the second most cause for breakdowns. Do a visual inspection for any cracks or tears in the rubber or make sure you have a complete vehicle inspection before your trip.
4. Brakes are crucial for your family’s safety. Summer trips can generally load down your car and put extra loads on your vehicle, especially if you are towing items. Have them checked and make sure they work properly.
Other summer hazards include construction zones and unpredictable weather. Be alert for upcoming construction zones and slow down. In addition, here in California we have summer fires that can cause reduced visibility in some areas. Flash floods and sudden downpours from thunderstorms can also cause slippery roads, limited visibility and hydroplaning.
Lastly, if you’re on an extended trip into an area that does not have facilities nearby, a good emergency kit is vital. Duct tape (for repairing hoses), first aid kit, flashlight, blankets, water, flares, jumper cables, and small amounts of food are all needed in case of an accident or breakdown when you’re out of cell phone range!
For more summertime driving tips to stay safe, visit www.safecommunities.org/ and for road closures and construction zones here in California, visit www.dot.ca.gov/ for the latest traffic problems.
If you are involved in any type of personal injury accident, don’t hesitate to call an experienced attorney to assist you through the process.