Stay Safe on the Roads this Summer

August is a big month for vacations—be careful out there!

It’s the dog days of summer, and many people gear up for a vacation in the month of August. The result is busier roads, more motorists driving in unfamiliar places, and more accidents. The Department of Motor Vehicles offers some great tips on making your summer road trip a safe one. Before you set off on your adventure, consider this advice.

Avoid distracted driving
More and more these days, people are driving distracted. Checking your latest text is never worth putting yourself and others in danger! Avoid these behaviors while driving:

  • Looking at your phone
  • Talking on a hand-held phone
  • Texting
  • Using an electronic device, for example to start up music
  • Eating
  • Reaching for items
  • Applying makeup or checking yourself in mirror

Never drink and drive
Summer is a time of holidays and parties, but remember, alcohol and other substances do not mix with driving! If you’re going to be drinking, make sure you have a designated driver. Or, if you don’t have a designated driver, why not hail a ride home? These days, with the availability of ridesharing services right at your fingertips, you can hail a ride from nearly anywhere!

Watch for bikers and pedestrians
As a driver, there is a lot to watch! Not only do you need to look out for other cars, but you also need to be extremely careful of pedestrians and bikers. Be extra vigilant at pedestrian crosswalks, and give bikers wide berth if you are passing them. The same goes for road workers. Slow down whenever you are passing people working on the road.

Wear safety belts and use car seats correctly
As a driver, you are responsible for your own safety and the safety of the others in your car. Make sure all children and adults are wearing their seatbelts. Make sure babies and young children are fastened properly in an approved car seat or booster seat, depending on their age and weight. See the DMV’s website for recommendations on car seats.

Keep a safe distance
Tailgating is dangerous and rude. If you’re following too close to the driver in front of you, you won’t have enough time to stop in an emergency. If you’re not sure how close is too close, use the 3-second rule. Pick an object like a road sign. When the car in front of you passes that sign, you should be able to count 3 full seconds before you reach that sign. If you can’t, then you are driving too close.

Left lane is for passing only
On a multi-lane highway, the left lane generally moves faster, so some people like to drive in that lane for their whole trip. When this happens, sometimes an even faster driver will use the right lane to pass you. This is dangerous because people don’t expect to be passed from the right. To avoid this, be sure to use the left lane just for passing slower cars, and then get back into the right lane. An exception to this rule is letting other people merge. If you can do so safely, it is courteous to move to the left lane when you see people trying to merge.

Let others merge
Merging onto a busy highway can be difficult. If you see drivers trying to merge, generally it is better to slow down to let them in. In some cases, it may be better to speed up or switch to the left lane. Whatever the case, be aware of other drivers during merges. Merges can be tricky for everyone.

Observe the speed limit
Speed limits are set for a reason—safety! Driving too fast can make it harder to control your car and can make the damage from an accident even worse. But driving too slowly and impeding the flow of traffic can also be a danger. Try to stay observe the speed limit and stay with the flow of traffic to the best extent you can.

Be courteous with your high beams
High beams can help in a very dark area, but they can also be blinding to other drivers. Use them when you are in a dark or poorly lit area, but immediately lower them when another driver is coming toward you or is in front of you.

Use your turn signals
Turn signals are an important way to communicate your intentions to other drivers. For instance, if you are changing lanes, you can alert other drivers with your turn signal, and this will help prevent any surprises. The more drivers communicate with others, the safer the roads are.

With these refresher tips in mind, you can be a safer, more courteous driver this summer when you venture out on your vacation. And most of all, have a terrific time! That’s what vacations are all about!


The Harris School of Business writes a weekly blog with tips on lifestyle, safety, education, and careers. Find out how you can start a new career path with us!