Trauma Season and the Perils of Summer Driving

June 13th, 2017 | by RON BELL

Trauma Season and the Perils of Summer Driving
Although warm weather means better conditions on the roads, the seasonal challenges of driving in spring and summer should not be taken lightly

Easier to drive, but riskier

What is the most dangerous season to drive? In one national survey, 83% Americans interviewed said that the riskiest time to be out on the road is winter. Intuitively, this statement appears to make sense. After all, a snowstorm or a heavy rainfall seems to call for much more driving caution than a sunny day and a cloudless sky. Moreover, in New Mexico alone, inclement wheather can be responsible for more than 10% of all motor vehicle crashes in a year and up to 8% of all fatalities. Nevertheless, it turns out that in this case, a glance at the data will not tell the whole story and common-sense assumptions may turn out to be misleading. Although warm weather does bring optimal conditions for driving, these gains are often canceled out by other factors. So much so that car crash fatalities which occur during the summer months account for 30% of all motor vehicle deaths in a given year. If driving conditions in spring and summer are generally more favorable, what are the reasons for an increase in fatal accidents? The answer appears to be a complex one.

Busier roads, longer journeys, and the teen factor

The first factor that makes summertime driving more dangerous is, simply, more traffic. More people on the road will statistically speaking, cause more accidents. In addition, holiday travelers often cover great distances, in many cases driving for far longer than they are accustomed to. Many of those drivers experience fatigue which makes them less attentive to the road and more susceptible to distractions. Then, there are also teenage drivers, for whom summer vacations are especially fatal. In fact, the period starting on Memorial Day and ending on Labour Day has come to be known as the “100 Deadliest Days” for teen drivers. The season owes its gruesome name to the fact that, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, from 2010 to 2014 more than 5 thousand people were killed in accidents with teenage drivers during the above-mentioned time period. Although motor vehicle crashes are in general the leading cause of death for ages 16 to 24, during the hundred days, fatalities from crashes involving drivers aged 16-19 spike, increasing by 16% in comparison with the yearly average.

The menace of DTS and other seasonal difficulties

Nevertheless, the risk of a car crash during spring and summer months remains high even for experienced drivers, and for a host of different reasons. For example, it has been suggested that switching to daylight savings time may contribute to an increase in fatal accidents. Specific data on this issue are, in fact, available – according to one study that analyzed traffic accidents in the days following the daylight savings time switch during the period of 10 years, on Monday immediately after the time change 17% more deaths related to motor vehicle collisions occur. The effect persists during the whole week following the switch to DTS. One of the explanations suggested is that drivers have to get accustomed to, first, lower visibility in the mornings and, second, a sudden change in the sleeping routine; both of the factors may affect a driver’s attentiveness and make them more susceptible to dangerous mistakes.   

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, NHTSA, has pointed to another prominent cause of accidents in spring and summer – a lack of proper car maintenance, particularly when it comes to tire pressure. A special consumer advisory released by NHTSA some time ago reminded drivers that underinflated tires are especially exposed to damage when the asphalt is hot. It is estimated that between 2005 and 2009 accidents related to tire issues resulted in 116,000 people injured and almost 3,400 fatalities.

Safety first

In view of all of the potential driving hazards described above, how can drivers ensure they go through the spring and the summer of 2017 accident-free? The first step will be to recognize that even though weather conditions may make roads safer to drive, the warm period presents its own set of unique challenges that call for caution and attentiveness. The dangers of summer driving are real and not to be ignored. Therefore, the usual safety precautions – for example, wearing seatbelts, avoiding distractions such as texting while driving, and obeying speed limits – must be followed at all times. Remembering about that will help the drivers to make their way through the trauma season unscathed.  

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