Summer safe driving tips

More Canadians die on the roads during the summer months than at any other time of the year. Consumption of alcohol or drugs, driving while fatigued, not wearing seatbelts, poor mechanical fitness of vehicles and aggressive driving are often implicated in these tragedies. RoadSafetyBC urges all Canadians to put safety first when they set out on their summer travels.

view of field of grass and trees and a side view mirror from inside a car

Impaired driving

Impaired driving is one of the leading causes of death in Canada. Approximately 1 in 3 collisions involve alcohol and 1 in 10 drivers after 10 P.M. have consumed alcohol. According to statistics from Insurance Corporation of BC, most alcohol-related crashes do not occur during the winter months (December, January, February). The greatest numbers of alcohol-related crashes occur during the summer months (June, July, August), contrary to popular opinion.

One of the myths is that drivers believe they drive better after having a few drinks. Having a few drinks will affect a person’s judgement and reaction negatively. Other popular myths are I can have 1 drink per hour, I can drink a cup of coffee to sober up, I can take a cold shower to sober up, and I can eat something and I won’t be as impaired. All of these myths are false. The concentration of alcohol in a person will only be gradually eliminated with the passage of time. Don’t drink at all if you are planning to drive.

A wide range of drugs, including illicit, prescription and some over-the-counter drugs can impair one’s ability to drive a vehicle. Canadian statistics from 2014 have shown that among fatally injured drivers tested, as many as 42% tested positive for some type of drug. Among those who tested positive for drugs, 44% tested positive for cannabis (Traffic Injury Research Foundation).

Driving while fatigued

Canadians often travel tremendous distance when they go on vacations. This creates a temptation to keep driving for extended periods even when tired. On top of this, many of our routes are quite monotonous, another factor that can make a driver sleepy.

Fatigue is a form of impairment, so don’t give into the temptation to push on. If you started your day early, then stop early. If you feel fatigued, have a good sleep before you take the wheel. It might be better to delay your trip until the morning when you feel fresh and energized. Rest stops are important. A stretch break keeps the driver alert by promoting blood circulation and makes the trip more pleasant for passengers. If you are traveling with young children, regular stops are a must. Bring plenty of items to keep them occupied. Special travel games and songs also help.

It is never safe to leave a child, a vulnerable person or a pet alone in a vehicle. Even on days that appear cool, the passenger compartment can turn into an oven in 20 minutes or less with potentially deadly consequences.

Seat belt usage and mechanical fitness

One of the most important safety precautions is to make sure everyone is properly buckled up, which includes using child car seats and booster seats. More information on child car/booster seats.

Before leaving on vacation, have your vehicle inspected to make sure it is mechanically sound. Repair or replace worn parts to avoid a potential break-down or delay that could spoil your road trip. Check all tires, including the spare tire, for condition and pressure. Replace your windshield wiper blades if they are worn or cracked. Make sure all lights work, including those on a trailer if you are hauling one. Keep a flashlight, flares and first aid kit at a place that can be easily reached in an emergency. Program or adjust your global position system (GPS) or any electronic device before you head out on the road. BC’s distracted driving law prohibits the use of electronic devices by drivers when driving. GPS is one of the electronic devices named in the Motor Vehicle Act.

It is a good idea to check your vehicle’s fluid levels, tire inflation and lights when you stop at a service station for gas. A few minutes of checking can prevent an inconvenient break-down when you least expect it.

If you are hauling a trailer, it means you need more space to stop, pass or turn. Keep your distance. When traveling slower than the flow of traffic, be courteous. Pull over where possible to let faster vehicles pass. Check and make sure your vehicle is properly equipped for the job. You can do it by checking your owner’s manual or contacting your auto dealer. See Trailer towing tips.

Drive defensively and avoid aggressive driving

Maintain a safe distance behind other vehicles to give yourself time to stop safely. Exercise caution when reversing, changing lanes and turning. Stay out of other vehicle’s blind spots. Obey all signs and signals - including speed limits, traffic lights, stop signs and railway crossings. Don’t create undue risk or endanger other road users by tailgating, closing gaps to prevent merging, driving erratically, speeding, changing lanes in an unsafe manner, and yelling or gesturing at others.

When encountering an aggressive driver: Do recognize that every driver makes mistakes from time to time. Calm yourself by talking through the situation, call 9-1-1 (if the situation is warranted and you are in a safe location), count to 10, breath and relax. Don't get angry, gesture or yell back, or reciprocate the high-risk driving behavior.

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