Summer Vacations and PCS Moves
Directorate of Assessments and Prevention, Ground Division
U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center
Fort Rucker, Alabama
The summer vacation and PCS season is fast approaching. That means more individuals, Soldiers and families will be setting out on road trips of all kinds. Statistics indicate that distracted driving due to phone use occurs most frequently during the summer — nearly 10 percent more than any other time of year. In addition to limiting distractions, consider how you can stay safe on the road this summer.
Before you leave
No matter what type of trip you’re taking, start it off right by getting a good night’s sleep beforehand. Working all day and signing out at midnight to begin your leave increases your chances of being involved in a mishap. Operating a vehicle while fatigued can be just as dangerous as drinking and driving. In fact, driving after going more than 20 hours without sleep is the equivalent of driving with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 percent, the point you’re considered legally impaired in the U.S. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety estimates that 21 percent of fatal motor vehicle mishaps involve driver fatigue.
One of the top safety tips to avoid a mishap on the road is planning ahead:
- Build time into your trip schedule to stop for food, rest breaks, phone calls or other business.
- Adjust your seat, mirrors and climate controls before putting the car in gear.
- Pull over to eat or drink. It takes only a few minutes.
- Check your route of travel for weather conditions and road construction and plan an alternate route should you need to get off a heavily congested roadway.
- Technology can be an asset if used wisely. Whether you use traditional road maps or GPS navigation, plan which route you’ll take ahead of time. This step lets you know which roads you’ll take along your trip. As you plan ahead, you can research the traffic levels of these roads so you can drive safer.
- If you use GPS, your navigation system may even be able to tell you which roads are under construction. When you avoid driving through construction zones, you greatly reduce your risk of accidents and injury.
- If possible, avoid driving at night, when conditions are more hazardous.
- Before your trip, look into hotels along your route so you don’t have to make too big of a detour for lodging. Additionally, booking a hotel in advance can make stopping at night much easier.
- If your trip is a long one, trade out driving duties. Staring at the open road for hours on end can make a driver drowsy. To avoid falling asleep behind the wheel, switch drivers every few hours if possible. If driving alone, stop at a rest stop or gas station every couple of hours to stretch your legs and take a break.
- Remember, it’s summer and it will be hot out there. Should your vehicle break down, have some water and snacks on hand to tide you over until help arrives. A small cooler with water and snacks could be a lifesaver.
What if your car breaks down?
Getting out of the car at a busy intersection or on a highway to change a tire or check damage from a fender bender is probably one of the worst things a motorist can do. The Insurance Information Institute recommends the following precautions when your car breaks down:
Rules for passengers
- Never get out of the vehicle to make a repair or examine the damage on a busy highway. Get the vehicle to a safe place before getting out. If you have been involved in an accident, motion the other driver to pull up to a safe spot ahead.
- If you cannot drive the vehicle, it may be safer to stay in the vehicle and use a cellphone to summon for help. Standing outside the vehicle in the flow of traffic, under most circumstances, is a bad idea.
- Carry flares or warning triangles to mark your location once you get to the side of the road. Marking your vehicle's location to give other drivers advance warning can be critical. Remember to put on your hazard lights!
- In the case of a blowout or flat tire, move the vehicle to a safer place before attempting a repair, even if it means destroying the wheel getting there. The cost of a tire, rim or wheel is minor compared to endangering your safety.
After cellphones, the leading cause of driver distraction is other passengers. Reaching toward the back seat, turning to talk, checking on kids or pets in the rearview mirror, or anything else that takes your focus and attention away from the road can be a dangerous distraction. Establishing rules and “zones” can help keep everyone safe and happy on your road trip.
Check out the following link for more advice on where your kids and pets should sit in the vehicle: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sB1k4O4Ro88
. In addition, here are some tips for your summer road trips, including how you pack your car, https://www.travelers.com/resources/auto/travel/car-packing-tips
, and what to include in your roadside emergency kit, https://www.travelers.com/resources/auto/travel/what-to-do-if-your-car-breaks-down
. All these valuable tools can help ensure you reach your destination safely.
Author’s note: Tips included in this article are courtesy of Travelers Insurance, the National Safety Council, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the Department of Transportation.