ST. GEORGE – Though some may have the misconception that winter is the most dangerous driving season, according to recent Department of Transportation data, summer is, in fact, the most dangerous season to be out on the road. With Utah’s summer driving season off to a deadly start, the Utah Highway Patrol has offered simple tips to follow to ensure you, your family and others out on the road can arrive alive.
“Since Memorial Day, the UHP has investigated 11 fatal crashes,” Utah Highway Patrol Sgt. Jake Hicks said. “Overall, we have had 14 more deaths this year when compared to last year at this time.”
Multiple factors contribute to the 18 percent rise in fatal accidents during the summer months of June through August – including increased road congestion due to vacation travel and increased road work, according to the Department of Transportation.
“Local troopers are working extra shifts to enforce speed, DUI and seat belt laws,” Hicks said, “with a focus to reduce crashes and injuries on the freeway. In Washington and Kane counties, we have seen a 66 percent reduction in fatal crashes.”
Make smart choices when traveling by following these tips to help ensure your safety and the safety of others during this summer driving season.
On the road
- Obey the speed limit signs. Speeding is the leading cause of fatalities in Utah.
- Buckle up – every trip, every time, everyone. Failure to wear a seat belt leads to 65 percent of our fatal crashes, Hicks said.
- Check your tires. Keep tire pressure at the manufacturer’s recommended level. Well-maintained tires provide protection against avoidable breakdowns and crashes and improve vehicle handling. Consider replacing your tires when the tread is below 1/8 of an inch.
- Drive sober. If you plan to drink, choose a designated driver. In DUI crashes, 81 percent of people killed are the impaired drivers or their passengers.
- Stay focused and alert. If you’re driving, just drive – pay attention and avoid distractions. Leave the phone, GPS, radio and other such items to your passengers. Avoid fatigue. If you feel tired, pull over at a rest stop.
- Summer rain necessitates extreme caution. Roads become very slippery in the first few minutes of rainfall because the rain mixes with oil and dirt on the road. It takes about 30 minutes of steady rain to wash the oil and dirt off the road.
Share the road
Good weather means more bicycles, motorcycles and pedestrians are on the road.
- Because motorcycles are smaller than cars, they can be much harder to see. Take an extra moment to really look for motorcycles, especially when you’re turning at intersections or into or out of parking lots. Constantly scan the roadway in front, to the rear, and to the sides of your vehicle for motorcyclists and bicyclists.
- Never share lanes with motorcycles, as they also have use of the complete traffic lane.
- Increase your following distance to 4 seconds or more when behind motorcycles.
- Give three feet of distance to bicycles and pedestrians.
- When going through construction zones, use extreme caution, follow all road signs and watch for pedestrians or workers.
On the side of the road
- Pull over and off the road. If you’re involved in a crash or have an emergency, pull off at the next exit if at all possible. If not, get as far off the roadway as you can.
- Stay in your vehicle. The side of the road is very unsafe. Keep the people standing outside of the vehicle to a bare minimum. Everyone else should stay buckled up inside the vehicle. Never let children exit the vehicle, especially on high-speed roadways.
- Tire changing. Tire changing is very dangerous on the side of the road. Try to use the emergency lane to drive slowly to the next exit. If this isn’t possible or practical, get off on the shoulder as far as possible. Be extremely cautious when changing driver side tires close to traffic.
- Plan ahead. Good vehicle maintenance and fuel supplies can help avoid situations that may cause a roadside emergency. Keep a well-stocked emergency roadside kit in your vehicle.
No matter what your summer plans are, while you’re out there having fun, be mindful of these tips to help ensure your next road trip is a safe one.
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