During this time of year, we’re often confronted by news reports of staying safe when using fireworks. And while we’re certain that fireworks can be dangerous, many of us plan on traveling over the extended weekend afforded by holidays like the Fourth of July. AAA suggest that the roadways across the United States will have fewer drivers over the Independence Day weekend compared to last year, but that doesn’t mean there will beany less danger for those on the roads.
It’s a common perception that January 1 is the most dangerous day to drive. It makes sense, because so many people are out ringing in the new year, often with alcohol. New Years Day is the yearly peak of pedestrian deaths, according to data collected by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) in their Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS). And most of those deaths are directly attributed to alcohol. But July 4th is the deadliest day for automotive fatalities overall, with July 3 coming in slightly behind in the second position.
If you’re going to be one of the estimated 39 million people hitting the road for the Independence Day weekend, we’d like you to arrive at your destination (and return home) safe and sound. Thus, we’ve created this short Safe Driving Guide to help you make the trip safely.
Before You Start Your Trip:
- Pre-route your trip using online services, in-car GPS, or smartphone GPS system. Knowing your route before you start out is an intelligent course of action, plus in-car GPS or smartphone based options can help you reroute quickly in the event of construction or delays. Many states have adopted “511″ systems that show the locations of road incidents, construction and even rerouting possibilities to help you save time. As an added bonus, you may be able to pre-select stops for taking breaks, driver swaps and refueling.
- Let others know your route and your schedule. Additionally, carry a cell phone with you, just in case you have mechanical or other troubles while on the road.
- Ensure your car is properly maintained before you leave. Air conditioning, belts and hoses, engine coolant and tires should all get attention.
- Because summer brings sunshine and sizzling temperatures, ensure you have stocked your car with plenty of water in case you become stranded. Another low-cost item that can be helpful are windshield sun screens.
- We suggest you have each of the following in your car: a first aid kit to treat simple injuries, a roadside emergency kit (jumper cables, roadside markers, etc.), a flashlight and prepackaged snacks, like granola bars.
- While planning your route for your trip is important, there is nothing more important that preparing yourself for a trip as well. This means ensuring you get a good night’s sleep and have a highly nutritious breakfast before you start on the road.
- If you take prescription medications, ensure you’ve packed them. Consult with your doctor or pharmacist before you leave, and make certain they won’t affect your driving performance.
- We’re sure you’ve got your packing done, but don’t forget to make certain it’s secured correctly if you’re using a roof rack. Wouldn’t you hate to arrive at your destination only to find that your luggage is scattered across the Interstate some miles back?
Once You Hit the Road:
- Remember to take breaks! It’s a good idea to stop every two hours, even if you only do so for a quick bathroom break, just to give yourself some time off from driving. A short walk, some stretches, and a snack or a drink will help keep you fresh on your travels.
- Depending upon the length of your trip, you may want to consider having another driver or making overnight stops. We suggest you drive no further than 600 miles in a single day, unless there are two drivers involved.
- Don’t forget that the times of the day you’re on the road offer their own risks. Early morning is the safest time to drive, statistically speaking. Nighttime is the most dangerous time to drive. It is safer to stop overnight than it is to continue driving once the sun goes down.
- Alcohol and driving never mix! We cannot emphasize just how important this is. While it might seem like a wonderful idea to have a beer with pizza when you’ve stopped for dinner, don’t do it. Alcohol is a depressant, and no matter how little you consume, it will impair your ability to drive. Don’t forget, there will be plenty of time to enjoy adult beverages once you’ve reached your destination. If you encounter impaired drivers, report them to the authorities and keep your distance.
- Don’t allow aggressive or other rudely behaving drivers to get to you. With more people on the roads during holidays, you’re bound to see a few during your travels.
- Always allow yourself plenty of time. You should expect to encounter some delays, no matter how well you’ve plotted your route. Emergency incidents, police DUI checkpoints and undocumented construction are all possible on your route.