Summer is here! It’s time for beach trips, barbecues, and some much-needed relaxation.
And since everyone in North Carolina is going to be thinking the exact same thing, now is also the best time to refresh your memory on ways to stay safe behind the wheel – because our roads are about to get a lot more crowded!
Unfortunately, our friends and neighbors don’t have the best reputation for safe driving already. And summertime is one of the most dangerous times for traffic-related accidents and fatalities.
So how do you avoid injuries and stay safe on our roads this summer? Follow these tips.
Avoid Reckless Drivers – You can’t judge a book by its cover, but it’s fair to judge a driver by the condition of their car or their reckless driving habits. If you are on the road behind or near someone who is doing the following, try and avoid that driver:
- Drifting between lanes
- Making sharp turns
- Failing to use turn signals or headlights
Slow It Down – Driving can make anyone impatient, whether you’re heading across the country or driving home from work on a beautiful day. Unless you’re in an emergency, however, there is no reason to speed. Speeding is a factor in over 25% of traffic-related deaths. Mind the speed limits in each state or town that you visit this summer.
Go Over Your Route Ahead of Time – Summer is a great time for road trips and vacations, but driving on new roads can be tricky and confusing. Sudden exits or hard-to-read directions can result in sharp turns or quick decisions, which put you at risk for an accident. Review your route once or twice before hitting the road so you can familiarize yourself with the proper exits and turns ahead. Designate a navigator in your front seat to help you read a map or use GPS on long trips.
Put Down Your Phone – A navigation buddy is especially important to have when your GPS directions are on your smartphone. Checking your phone – whether it’s for emails, texts, or even directions – is considered as one of the most dangerous forms of “distracted driving.” Keep your phone off while you’re driving this summer. It could save a life.
Stick to Daytime Driving – There is less traffic at night, but driving in the dark has its own set of risks. Low visibility makes it harder for drivers to see other cars, pedestrians, or roadblocks to navigate. You’re also more likely to share the road with drunk drivers at night. And night driving also puts you at the risk of drowsy driving. Driving while you are tired may not seem like a big threat, but the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) predicts that drowsy driving causes up to 6,000 traffic fatalities a year.
Buckle Up – Seat belt usage cuts traffic-related injuries and fatalities in half. They could save you thousands of dollars in hospital visits and even your life. Whether you are making a quick trip to the grocery store or driving hundreds of miles across a barren highway, seat belt usage is necessary for car safety this summer – and every other season. If you are driving, don’t start the car until everyone is buckled up. In North Carolina, around 88% of drivers and passengers use seat belts. That’s not bad, but let’s get this number up to 100%.
Whatever You Do, Do NOT Drive While Intoxicated – Driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or drugs will put you at the highest risk for an auto accident. Alcohol-related crashes kill 28 people in the United States every day, and account for close to 1 in 3 traffic-related deaths.
If you plan on going to a party, event, or picnic where there will be alcohol, assign a designated driver in your group. (If no one volunteers, offer to pay for his or her food or non-alcoholic beverages as an incentive.) If you drive by yourself to an event and end up drinking, call a cab or request a car from one of the many rideshare apps (Uber, Lyft, etc.).
Highway officers know the dangers of driving under the influence and how DUI rates (as well as reckless driving in general) spike in the summer. They will be on the lookout for any drivers that display reckless driving, especially at nighttime or during holiday weekends.
You do not want to be caught up in a DUI case this summer, so avoid driving after you’ve had alcohol at all costs. If you’ve only had one drink hours before you drove or don’t feel the effects of driving, you may feel safe on the road, but you still might be charged with DUI depending on your blood alcohol content.
Even with extreme caution and proper preparation, you cannot control the actions of other drivers on the road or unpredictable events that can lead to an accident. If you are injured in a car accident and face damages or financial losses, you may need to speak to a lawyer.
About the Author:
Attorney Mike Schlosser represents victims of personal injury, those charged with a crime, as well as those facing traffic charges. A former Guilford County, North Carolina District Attorney, Schlosser has been in private practice at the Law Firm of Schlosser & Pritchett since 1983 and has been a member of the North Carolina State Bar since 1973.