Why are There More Car Accidents in Summer?June 7, 2021
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), August and September are the peak months of the year for car accidents. The reasons for the increase are many, including the fact that there are many more vehicles on the road. Particularly around resort areas such as shore towns, people are heading out for summer vacations in droves. Getting out on the road for a summer getaway might be more popular than ever after many Americans spent 2020 in various stages of sheltering in place.
It is hoped that examining the reasons behind car accidents in summer can prevent many of these accidents and the personal injury that can result.
One of the major reasons for more car accidents in the summer is that it is peak road construction season. Although the final product might be a wonderful improvement, getting there is not easy. Setting up work zones for road and bridge construction is a complex undertaking. The road conditions and traffic patterns need to be well understood. Roads and bridges are rarely shut down entirely to allow for construction. Rather, an elaborate setup to protect transportation workers, drivers, and pedestrians needs to be devised. The work zone setup will often include various types of disruptions, including the shutdown of one or more traffic lanes, setting up detours, adding temporary warning signs, and sometimes adding workers to direct traffic using signs.
The complicated work zone setup will evolve over time as the project advances. The risk of collision is increased in work zones despite best efforts because of the lack of familiarity drivers have of the changing traffic patterns that come with work zone restrictions. The U.S. Department of Transportation estimated that, in a recent year, approximately 67,523 vehicle accidents happened in road construction work zones. These accidents resulted in 47,758 injuries and 579 fatalities.
As temperatures rise, a number of risks of car accidents rise as well. Being exposed to summer heat from working or playing outside can cause serious dehydration and driver fatigue. These conditions can make a driver tired and slow reaction time. In addition, the dehydration and fatigue can interfere with attention span and judgment.
The heat can also negatively impact vehicles. Tire blowouts and overheated engines can cause accidents for the drivers of the vehicles that fail as well as those nearby who need to react quickly enough to avoid any disabled vehicles. Blowouts and other malfunctions make it difficult for drivers to control their vehicles. Depending on the road conditions, it may not be possible to maneuver the vehicle completely out of the way of oncoming traffic. These conditions are ripe for car accidents.
People take to the road to go on summer vacation and are often driving in unfamiliar places. Tourists who do not know where they are going or are unfamiliar with local traffic rules can drive too slowly or erratically and cause or be involved in accidents as a result. In addition, traffic can get quite congested in and around resort destinations. The more vehicles on the road, the more accidents will occur. Congestion combined with people unfamiliar with local traffic rules poses a higher than normal risk of accidents.
Tourists are also known to spend time celebrating with alcohol. The combination of being out in the sun, being dehydrated, and having a few drinks can exacerbate the lack of judgment and performance caused by the alcohol alone. Even two drinks can result in a blood alcohol level that violates traffic laws.
Teen Driver-Related Accidents
Young drivers are by nature inexperienced drivers. The lack of experience can be a detriment. Schools generally close between late May and early June. Teens who are not in school have more time to be on the road and get involved in accidents. Some research points to 40 percent more time for teen driving during the summer than when school is in session. The days between Memorial Day and Labor Day are sometimes referred to as the 100 Deadliest Days of Summer for teen driving accidents.
The lack of experience of teen drivers is a major factor in summer car accidents. Young drivers lack the defensive driving skills that experienced drivers can develop over time. They may also be more prone to attempt to text on their phone while driving. This is illegal in almost every state because of the danger it poses. Combine distracted driving with a lack of experience, and more accidents happen. It is a good idea for parents to model good behavior by not texting while driving. Also, parents should be strict about insisting their teenagers do not text while driving. There are even some apps being developed to disable cell phone text functions from operating while a driver is behind the wheel.
The nicer weather of summer brings out not only more drivers but also others who share the road, such as motorcyclists, bicyclists, and pedestrians. The fact that there are so many more vehicles and others on the roads makes driving more difficult to do safely and increases the risk that accidents will occur. It is often difficult for drivers to see motorcycles, bicycles, and pedestrians on the roads compared with other vehicles.
Many transportation departments throughout the United States are grappling with how to create the best design features to accommodate multi-modal traffic safely and effectively. With dedicated bike lanes and adequate signage, there can be a decrease in accidents related to heavier traffic and traffic by a variety of people sharing the road. An important aspect of improving safety on the roads is knowledge.
Drivers and others need to know local traffic rules for sharing the road and honor those rules. Defensive driving classes are available that offer practical skills to anticipate and avoid accidents. Many car insurance providers accept evidence of having taken a defensive driving class and offer discounts to those who complete the course.
Summer weather also contributes to a higher rate of accidents. Thunderstorms can come on unexpectedly and include torrential rains. These conditions can lead to limited visibility and can also cause tires to hydroplane, resulting in the driver temporarily losing control of the vehicle. It is important to ensure tires have adequate tread to reduce the risk of hydroplaning. Windshield wipers should be changed regularly so that they allow for adequate visibility during rain.
Another weather issue is sun glare. This can be more severe during the summer and temporarily blind motorists. A driver caught in glare may lose control or collide with another vehicle. Sun glare can also cause fatigue that can reduce reaction time and increase risk of an accident. It is important to have UV screening sunglasses to help maintain clear vision and reduce driver fatigue during sun glare events.
Taking Precautions can Keep Everyone Safe
It is in everyone’s best interests to take reasonable precautions to ensure that summer driving is safe driving despite the various challenges it brings. By taking precautions, it is possible to minimize the risk of being in a car accident this summer. Tips to be safe include the following:
- Paying close attention to speed limits and road signs
- Keeping cell phones off or tucked away
- Keeping vehicles in good working order with good tire treads under correct pressure, fluids changed and topped off, and windshield wipers working
Motorists should use extra caution when driving through work zones and avoid driving if tired or after drinking alcohol. It is hoped that these precautions will enable drivers to have a safe and enjoyable summer.
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