According to motoring experts, you shouldn’t fear snow and rain; the REAL threat is sunshine. The Lookers car-buying firm claims that drivers should not dread dark nights and black ice in winter, because it’s actually during the summer months that UK drivers experience the majority of fatal and serious accidents.
This is backed up by official government statistics, which prove that more fatal and serious driving accidents occur on Britain’s roads in the summer. Between July and September 2015, 6,290 accidents involving death/serious injury occurred on UK roads. By contrast, 5,890 fatal and serious accidents occurred between January and March 2016.
The RAC has also revealed that “during heatwaves we often experience a 20% increase in call-outs, and this can even get as high as 30% in coastal areas.” However, the RAC states that if drivers carry out the right checks, the risk of breakdown (or worse) can be reduced to ensure that summer driving remains safe.
Why is the summer worse for accidents?
In a word, holidays. According to research, holidays mean more people on the roads heading to airports and domestic holiday destinations. Many of those driving are more stressed and/or more distracted than usual, whether by other drivers, noisy children in the back of the car or both. Typically, many drivers will also be heading to their holiday destinations along roads with which they are unfamiliar, leading to further stress and distraction. There are also more children playing near roads because of the school holidays.
Finally, because we all tend to make longer car journeys in the summer, this “can lead to pre-existing problems [with a car] coming to the fore,” according to the RAC. It’s here that drivers can take practical steps to ensure safer driving.
What can you do to reduce risk?
Here are the top five things you can do to reduce risk while driving in the summer.
1. Take care of tyres
It’s essential to check tyre treads. Use a 20p piece to ensure they are road legal. Also, check tyres are inflated to the correct level for the number of people and amount of luggage being carried. Heat can decrease tyre pressures, hitting fuel economy and increasing the chances of a blowout. Consider too the type of tyre you have fitted, as there is a 30% increase in stopping distances if you leave your winter tyres on in summer.
2. Monitor fuel and fluid levels
Vehicles burn through fuel faster in hot weather, so hunt down the cheapest petrol and diesel prices in your area by signing up to the price alert email. Minimise the use of air conditioning where possible, but also be aware that the extra drag will impact fuel economy if you open windows. Once your journey is over, try to park your car in a shaded area to stop fuel evaporating and potential damage to your battery’s longevity.
Critical fluids such as coolant and oil must also be checked regularly. The former should be topped up as required, as extreme heat can lead to evaporation. The latter should be changed frequently because it thins during warm weather, increasing the risk of engine failure.
3. Consider the human factor
To be blunt, people are the weakest link of the driving process. Tiredness can cause accidents in the blink of an eye, so take regular stops on long journeys. Be sure to stock up on essentials in the car such as food, water and sun cream, in case you do break down at the side of the road. If it’s sunny, always use the sun visor and have a pair of sunglasses in the car; sunshine in drivers’ eyes is a leading cause of accidents, especially at dusk and dawn.
The summer months can also usher in a period of potential misery for those blighted with hay fever, which can be lethal when behind the wheel – sneezing while driving can cause a driver to instinctively close their eyes for 50 feet and it is believed that up to 2,500 accidents every week are caused by this simple act. Counteract hay fever symptoms by taking non-drowsy medicines. If your hay fever is extreme, check the pollen count along your route before setting off.
4. Say no to mobile
Driver distraction, alongside speeding, is the leading cause of all serious and fatal accidents. In the summer, we appear to be more distracted by what is happening inside and outside the car. There is greater temptation to play music with the top down or windows open; this means more fiddling with the stereo. Talking with passengers also increases drivers’ distraction.
It’s best to switch off your phone or put it in the glovebox, so you aren’t tempted to take a peek while driving. Also, if you are using your mobile as a sat nav, ensure you plot your route before heading off. If you’re caught using your mobile with your engine on, even at a drive thru, you can expect six points on your licence.
5. Entertain the kids
Summer holidays are a prime time for accidents on UK roads. If you have children, sort out how they are going to occupy themselves before setting off. There is nothing more distracting than a child vying for your attention while you’re trying to negotiate traffic.
To stop them from becoming hot (and therefore loud and cranky), use sun blinds on their windows if needed and make sure to open a window. Consider car games or iPads and be sure to plan an all-important stop so the kids can get some fresh air and burn off any pent-up energy.
Why do you think there are more accidents in the summer than in the winter? Do people take more risks and face more distractions when driving in summer? Let us know your thoughts below.