Across the United States, the summertime has always been the best months of the year to go on a road trip, visit relatives in other states, and just spend more time outside of your own town. Even during the coronavirus pandemic, people are still planning ways to escape their normal routines throughout July and August. It can even be said that people are craving a bit of a vacation more than ever after being quarantined in their homes for months.
Before you start planning your own night or week away, you should consider that many other people this summer will be doing the same. With more drivers on the road than usual, the chances of getting caught in a car accident will naturally increase as well. Just because there will be more drivers doesn’t mean you should cancel your summer vacation plans, though. It just means you should be more careful than usual when driving.
Expect Distracted Drivers
The number of distracted drivers on the road at any time is always more than you might expect. Some safety reports suggest that up to 40% of all car accidents involve a distracted driver, usually a person holding their cellphone at the time of the crash. According to other safety surveys, about half of all adult drivers admit to using their smartphone behind the wheel now and then. Of course, since people will likely lie on a survey – even an anonymous one – to avoid admitting that they broke the law or acted irresponsibly, the actual percentage of distracted drivers is probably much higher.
What this all means for summertime driving is that you can expect that most of the vehicles around you on the roads and highways are driven by people who are distracted in one way or another. It is up to you to keep an eye out for dangers and to drive defensively because the other drivers around you, statistically, will not.
When you are driving this summer, commit yourself fully to safe driving. Do not use a handsfree cellular device to take calls or send texts, as they can be just as distracting as picking up and using a cellphone. If you have a passenger in your vehicle, then you can ask them to be in charge of your cellphone, but only have them relay important, urgent information.
Watch Out for Out-of-State Plates
Every state has its own official road rules as well as unofficial “rules” that drivers instinctively know from living there for a while. During the summer, when people start crossing state borders to visit family and friends, you are more likely to encounter out-of-state drivers, who you can identify by spotting their out-of-state plates.
Are out-of-state drivers automatically worse drivers than others who live in your state? Of course not. Are they more likely to be unfamiliar with the “unofficial rules” of the road in your state? Yes, and that could mean they drive in ways you might not expect. At the least, out-of-state drivers could drive erratically due to not knowing the layout of your hometown’s highways and streets, reflected in last-second lane changes, stops, and turns.
As a basic safe practice, try to give more distance to an out-of-state driver than you would normally. They might be distracted by their phone’s GPS or drive in ways usually expected where they call home. At the least, giving them more space will probably give them an appreciation for the courtesy of your state’s drivers.
Plan Your Route
One of the best ways to stay out of traffic trouble when traveling is to plan your route before you ever put the keys in the ignition. Knowing your path ahead will let you anticipate any heavier than normal traffic and then choose an alternative route. Trying to pick a secondary course while you are already on the road is frustrating at best and dangerous at worst if it means trying to use your phone while driving.
Being prepared with a route also lets you choose the right time to leave your starting point without being in a rush. Feeling impatient behind the wheel can make you drive recklessly, increasing your chances of getting into a collision.
Put Together Emergency Supplies
While we are on the topic of roadway safety, it is always a good opportunity to bring up roadside emergency kits. You should keep a hazard kit in your vehicle at all times. Double-checking that everything is there and in order before leaving familiar territory for a summertime trip will always be a wise decision.
In your vehicle hazard kit, you should include at least:
- Flashlight and batteries
- Roadside flare
- Water and nonperishable food
- Hand-crank or solar-power radio
- Emergency blanket
- First-aid kit
There are plenty of other items you can add to your hazard kit if you want to be thorough. You should also adjust what you need to bring with you based on the number of passengers along for the ride and how far you are traveling.
After a Crash, Trust an Attorney
From all of us at McHargue & Jones, LLC in Chicago, we wish you and your family fun and safe travels this summer. We hope you experience all that you have on your vacation list, even if that is just going the next town over for a drive that breaks up the routine of quarantine.
If the unexpected and unfortunate do occur and you are hurt in a car accident, please remember to call (312) 487-2461. Our attorneys will be standing by to hear your story and see how we can help you. Initial consultations for car accident clients are always free.