When school is out for the summer, many American families embark on road trips to see more of the country and to make the most of their leisure time. While road trips lead to memories, it is important to make sure they do not lead to the wrong kind of memories. Interstate car accidents spike in the summer months when more cars are on the roads.
This is a particular problem in Florida which has some of the most dangerous stretches of highway in the country. Five years of highway fatality data demonstrate that Florida’s 382 mile stretch of I-95 is the most dangerous highway in the country, with the highest rate of fatal vehicle accidents, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) data. Researchers found Florida’s stretch of I-95 has 1.73 fatal accidents per mile per year.
Tragic examples abound. Just last month, a man was killed on I-95 near Jacksonville when his SUV became lodged under a jackknifed tractor-trailer that crashed trying to avoid highway debris on northbound Interstate 95 in St. Johns County.
There is no way to prevent other drivers speeding or driving carelessly but there are some safety tips you should consider before you set off with your family on your summer road trip that could decrease your odds of being involved in a car crash.
Five safety tips for your summer road trip:
1. Make a checklist of things you should monitor on your car before you get on the road and go through the list. It should include:
• Tires are properly inflated with adequate tread;
• Belts and hoses;
• Wiper blades;
• Cooler systems;
• Fluid levels;
• Headlights and other lights;
• Air conditioning; and • Brakes.
The NHTSA urges drivers to check their tires at least once a month. The checks should include the spare. “A tire doesn’t have to be punctured to lose air. All tires naturally lose some air over time. In fact, under-inflation is the leading cause of tire failure,” according to the NHTSA.
2. Check child safety devices If your child is traveling with a badly fitted, or improperly installed, seat, it can be as unsafe as riding in a car with no child seat. Unfortunately, many parents fail to fit seats properly and terrible injuries can be caused to children. You can get your child’s seat checked at an inspection station by a certified technician. To find the nearest one see the Safercar.gov website. The NHTSA says all children aged 12 or younger should ride in the back seat. Also make sure your car seat is not the subject of a safety recall. You should also look out for other people’s children on the road. Be particularly careful if you are reversing in a holiday area full of children. SUVs often have blindspots and are a major cause of “backover” accidents.
3. Take Regular Breaks You may be eager to get to your destination but long periods of driving without breaks can be deadly. As many as 100,000 police-reported crashes are the direct result of driver fatigue each year. This results in an estimated 1,550 deaths and, 71,000 injuries. You should pull over for a rest every couple of hours, according to AAA and consider taking stimulants such as coffee. Rotate drivers, if possible. We have many drivers arriving in the Jacksonville area who have driven through the rural areas of South Carolina and Georgia without a break.
4. Avoid Distractions Plan your route in advance and plug it into your GPS before you start driving. If you are using a map, get a passenger to navigate, if possible. Don’t check routes or road conditions on your cell phone while you are driving and never text. Avoid other distractions such as food and distracting interactions with children.
5. Don’t speed Summer road trips can be frustrating, particularly when there is heavy traffic on the highways. Avoid putting your foot on the gas to make up time and getting involved in risky traffic maneuvers. Speeding and aggressive driving causes about a third of all fatal vehicle crashes. It’s not worth risking the lives of your family and other drivers, to get to your destination on time.
Authored by David Macaulay.