It’s officially summer, and as the social distance restrictions are slowly being lifted, Coloradans are starting to emerge from their homes to explore what this beautiful state has to offer. Between scenic mountain day trips and venturesome road trips, summertime travel means more cars will be on the road for the next few months.
The desire to be out and about during summer is natural, especially after months of being cooped up due to the stay-at-home order. However, it is still important to make sure you are committed to practicing safe driving skills as well as ensuring your car is up to the task of handling the intense heat. Weather extremes often make it necessary to adjust your driving and vehicle maintenance habits, and the heat is no exception.
To help you have many fun and safe adventures on the road this summer, here are a few things to keep in mind:
Maintain Proper Fluid Levels
Fluids help keep vital vehicle components lubricated and functional, and they also help prevent them from overheating by keeping them cool. While it’s important to ensure your levels are adequate all throughout the year, high temperatures can cause fluids to evaporate more quickly than usual, which puts your vehicle at greater risk of overheating. Before heading out in the blazing summer weather, make sure your oil, brake fluid, coolant, transmission fluid, and power steering fluid are all at healthy levels. If you’re unsure of how to do this, consult your vehicle owner’s manual for which type of fluid to use, or take your car to a professional for servicing.
Additionally, try to keep your windshield wiper fluid full, too. This may not directly affect how your car operates, but a clean windshield gives you a clear view of the road ahead and helps to minimize glare from the sun, both of which lead to safer driving.
Ensure Your Battery Is in Solid Shape
While vehicle battery maintenance is heavily emphasized during the cold season, heat is actually more damaging to a battery’s health than cold temperatures. Battery fluid evaporates quickly in high heat, which can corrode the connections and drain the charge. To avoid this, it’s a good idea to have your battery inspected and tested by a professional to determine if you need a new battery, especially if your current one is over three years old.
Keep Your Tires Inflated to the Manufacturer’s Recommendation
As the temperature increases, the air inside your tires expands. When tires are overinflated they are more prone to wear and tear, and it is more likely for them to blow out. Because of this, it is important to check your tire pressure regularly and keep them inflated to the vehicle manufacturer’s recommendation (also do this for your spare tire). Be sure to check the tire pressure when the car has not been driven recently and the tires are cool to avoid a skewed reading.
Manage the Temperature Inside of the Car
When the temperatures are in the low 70s outside, the inside of a car can quickly reach over 100 degrees. In addition to being unhealthy, the heat intensity is majorly uncomfortable and can impair driver safety. Maintaining a cool temperature inside of a car can help keep drivers alert, as heat fatigue can lead to drowsy driving.
To help keep cool, have your AC system inspected and maintained (e.g., changing filters as necessary). If your AC system is not functioning, try to drive during times of the day that are cooler, roll down the windows to maximize ventilation, park in the shade, or look into investing in a portable air conditioner that is suitable for car travel.
Lastly and most importantly, never leave children or pets unattended in a car during summer, even for a moment.
Be Prepared for Emergencies
Preventative safety measures help to minimize the chance that drivers will run into emergency situations, but the road is not always a predictable place. Because of this, it’s important to be prepared for emergencies by ensuring you have an emergency vehicle kit that includes:
- nonperishable food
- sunscreen and a sun hat
- change of clothes
- jumper cables
- emergency flare gun
- tire pressure gauge
- spare tire
- tire jack
- first aid kit
- spare cell phone charger
It is also a great idea to get a roadside assistance membership, such as with AAA.
Additionally, taking an advanced drivers ed class, such as a defensive driving class, can help you gain precision driving skills, develop strategies that will help you avoid hazards, learn how to best react to unexpected challenges, and practice basic car maintenance, such as changing a tire or boosting a battery, all of which would be advantageous during emergency situations.
Watch Out for Pedestrians and Bicyclists
While it is always important to look out for pedestrians and bicyclists while driving, you’ll be sharing the road with more of them during the summertime when people are more active. To help keep everyone safe, pay extra close attention at intersections, crosswalks, and bike lanes. Additionally, many people choose to exercise before sunrise or after sundown when it’s cooler, so keep a close eye out for those who may be hard to see in the dark.
Help Promote Teen Driver Safety
With school out for the summer, many teen drivers are eager to celebrate the break from homework and tests by taking to the road for some liberating joyrides. Between movies, TV episodes and songs, many mediums capture the spirit of adolescence with imagery of teenagers piled in a car together with the music turned up.
Even though it’s a natural desire for teenagers to want to spend the summer driving around with their friends, the lack of experience behind the wheel is still something that parents should be mindful of. In order to keep teenagers safe, it is important that parents take steps to ensure their children are being smart and sensible while driving.
A few strategies include:
- Make sure your son or daughter is following Colorado’s graduated licensing laws. Restrictions regarding curfew, peer passengers and cell phone use are designed to help new drivers slowly build up the skills they need to be safe, independent drivers.
- Set boundaries based on your assessment of your teen’s maturity and skill level. Just because your adolescent may have phased out of some of the graduated licensing laws doesn’t mean that you can’t set your own rules. Peers can be a significant cause of distracted driving, so feel free to limit how many friends your teen can have in the car if you think he/she needs more time to mature as a driver.
- Draft a safe driving contract that outlines what your teenager needs to do in order to keep the privilege of being allowed to drive. This can include items such what the nightly curfew will be, a pledge to never text while driving, a promise to never drive while intoxicated or get in the car with anyone who is intoxicated, how far he/she is allowed to take the car, etc.
- Continue driving with your teenager, or consider enrolling him/her in an advanced driving course. Even if your son or daughter already has a license, you can continue to give guidance and feedback by going on routine drives together. It can be a fun way to bond as well as assess your teen’s skill level. Similarly, a defensive driving class can help broaden your teenager’s skill level so that he/she learns how to better react to unexpected situations.
The carefree vibe of summer makes it an ideal time to enjoy leisurely drives or embark on exciting road trips. As much fun as this season can be, there are a few extra precautions drivers and parents of young drivers should take in order to keep the road a safe place for everyone. Hopefully this information helps give you an idea of what safe driving steps you can take so that this season is filled with happy times on the road rather than stressful ones.
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