The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a division of the Department of Transportation, has released a set of “Summer Driving Tips” to help motorists stay safe on the roads during the summer months. “A little planning and some safety checks might spare you from dealing with the consequences of a breakdown,” the NHTSA cautions, “or worse, a highway crash.”
The list of tips begins with recommendations that drivers be proactive about maintaining their air conditioning systems. Hot cars are always dangerous, the resource notes, but the danger increases on especially hot days during the summer months, particularly for vulnerable occupants like infants, children, and the elderly. Operators should take care not to leave children alone in vehicles, as this exposes them to the risk of vehicular heatstroke, which is a threat even in mild temperatures. “[I]f the outside temperature is in the 70s and the windows are cracked, the temperature in a vehicle can rapidly reach deadly levels,” according to the NHTSA, noting that children’s body temperatures increase “three to five times faster than an adult’s.”
Another risk: the swifter decay of belts and hoses, whose rubber breaks down faster in warmer temperatures. Vehicle operators can mitigate this risk by regularly examining their car’s belts and hoses for signs of decay—“bulges, blisters, cracks or cuts in the rubber”—and be proactive about replacing them. Similarly, the NHTSA advises drivers to regularly inspect their tires to ensure that their tread depth is at least “2/32 of an inch,” as well as to monitor for uneven wear, pressure, and damage.
Road trip planning takes on extra importance in the summer, when a roadside breakdown can mean dangerous heat exposure. The NHTSA recommends accordingly that drivers stock their vehicle with emergency needs like drinking water and nonperishable foods, repair tools, medicines, maps, a first aid kit, a cell phone charger, and more. Drivers are also advised to plan their routes ahead of time, keeping abreast of road and weather conditions that may affect their journey. More summer driving recommendations are available via the NHTSA’s resource.