The weeks and months between Memorial Day and Labor Day see an uptick in leisure travel on the roads. The increased traffic leads to a spike in accidents and fatalities and has earned the period the title of the 100 Deadliest Days of Summer.
Before the drivers in your fleet hit the road this summer, it’s helpful to make them aware of this disturbing but preventable annual trend. Make sure your team is well-versed in the common causes of summer traffic incidents and the best ways to prepare.
Contributing factors to summer accidents
Rising temperatures can wreak havoc on your trucks. The risk of overheating engines is significantly higher in the summer months, and frequent stops and starts in construction zones or traffic jams cause more wear on brakes and tires.
Make sure you’re performing thorough pre- and post-inspections, paying special attention to tire pressure, coolant, and the AC system.
Drunk or drowsy driving
The warm weather and longer days increase the likelihood and frequency of parties and gatherings, many of which will include alcohol and extend well into nighttime hours. There are also more families driving long hours to get to summer vacation destinations.
This means your team may encounter more drivers who are overtired, drowsy or intoxicated. Truck drivers need to be particularly alert and aware of the other vehicles on the road. Keep an eye out for vehicles driving erratically or struggling to maintain speed or stay in their lane and move away from them as quickly and safely as possible.
Driving while distracted
Texting while driving is extremely dangerous, which is why it is illegal for a CMV driver to text while driving, and why mobile phones must be hands-free.
Distracted driving is more than just texting, however. Any activity that takes your eyes off the road and your attention away from driving can increase your risk. Eating and drinking, talking to passengers, reaching for something in your console or even choosing what podcast to listen to can put you in danger.
Even if you’re fully focused on the road, other drivers might not be: one-third of teens and many adults admit to texting while driving. Keep your eyes on the road at all times to make sure you’re aware of the actions of other drivers.
Fleet owners and operators should be talking to drivers regularly about the dangers distracted drivers pose to truckers. It’s also a good idea to provide defensive driving training if your fleet spends time in areas such as New Mexico and Louisiana where distracted driving fatalities are highest.
In many states, the summer season means a dramatic increase in construction projects – which means lane closures, detours and traffic backups. It’s easy for frustration levels to rise in construction zones, and that frustration can cause drivers to become impatient or aggressive.
To keep yourself (and other drivers) safe during construction season, it’s even more important than usual to stay focused on the road. Remember to watch your speed and maintain a safe following distance. It’s also critical to keep a close eye on the vehicles around you – passenger cars will often change lanes unexpectedly.
While you won’t be able to avoid every construction zone, check your routes ahead of time and plan alternate routes if possible.
More teen drivers
With school out for the summer, more teens are on the road. Younger and more inexperienced drivers have not yet learned the skills to recognize and avoid potentially dangerous situations on the road.
According to the CDC, teen drivers have a higher risk of vehicle crashes than any other age group. 60% of teen crashes are caused by distracted driving, with other passengers being the top distraction. Additionally, teens have lower seat belt usage rates and are more likely to speed.
With so many factors in play, it’s no wonder there is an increased risk of accidents in the summer months.
Professional drivers are key to keeping the roads safe
What’s in it for the driver?
Maintaining discipline and following safety guidelines leads to safer roads and a safety record your team and drivers can be proud of. A few benefits to inspire your team include:
- Pride in their work: Taking pride in safety can lead to a sense of accomplishment, reduced stress, and a clear conscious knowing that they’ve done all they can to protect themselves, the company, and other drivers. Using telematics data to show improvements in safety can be a great way to support your driver’s feelings of fulfillment.
- Reduced downtime: A strong safety record can help reduce downtime for both the driver and the fleet, resulting in better productivity and profitability.
- Enhanced reputation: Maintaining a commitment to safety can help build a positive reputation for both the driver and the fleet, making them more desirable to customers and the public.
- Improved public safety: By practicing safe driving habits, professional drivers can help reduce accidents and injuries on the road, benefiting not only themselves, but also the public.
- Legal compliance: Following safety regulations and best practices can help drivers avoid legal trouble and protect themselves and their fleet from costly fines and litigation.
Tips for professional drivers
- Stay cool and calm in reaction to other motorists’ poor choices.
- Don’t speed. Speeding increases the severity of all crashes.
- Allow for plenty of following distance. Leave yourself an out should the vehicle in front of you stop or swerve suddenly. The recommendation is one vehicle length for every 10 mph on your speedometer.
- Get the rest you need to be at your best. Don’t skimp on sleep, and take a nap if needed.
One of the best things you can do is to make sure your drivers and office team are prepared for the days ahead by keeping safety top of mind.
Download and share this infographic with your drivers to remind them to be extra careful during the 100 deadliest days.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in June 2022 but has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.