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Staying Safe on Summer Road Trips

Staying Safe on Summer Road Trips

Ground Division
Directorate of Assessments and Prevention
U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center
Fort Rucker, Alabama

Whether it’s a summer vacation or upcoming permanent change of station (PCS) move, Soldiers, their families and other individuals soon will be setting out on road trips. Statistics indicate that more than 100 million Americans will take a family vacation this year. Of those, 64% will drive to their destination, and 52% are age 22 or younger. They’ll cover the roadways coast to coast to hit the beaches, national parks, or to visit family and friends in just about every town across the US of A. If the price of fuel is favorable, you’ll probably see even more folks take to the open road. If you’re in the military, between 420,000 and 450,000 of you will make a PCS move this summer — probably combining it with a visit with family or friends or to take your summer vacation along the way.

Statistics show that distracted driving from phone use occurs most frequently during the summer; nearly 10% more than any other time of year. This summer, consider how you can avoid distraction and stay focused on the road. It’s also smart to start your summer vacation or PCS move by getting a good night’s sleep. Working all day and signing out at midnight to start your leave increases your chances of being involved in a mishap. Take that extra day and get plenty of rest. Those theme parks will still be there when you arrive safely.

Remember, driving fatigued can be as dangerous as drinking and driving. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety estimates that 21% of fatal motor vehicle mishaps involve driver fatigue. Driving after going more than 20 hours without sleep is the equivalent of driving with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% — the U.S. legal limit for impairment.

What summer driving statistics show

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) did a 24-year study of driving accidents. Here are some of the key findings:

  • In descending order, August, July, October, June, September and May are the months with the most traffic fatalities.
  • December is the next highest and the only winter month on the list of the six most deadly months.
  • The summer months of June, July and August have 29% more deaths than the winter months of December, January and February.
  • Summer driving leads to 20% more miles driven than during winter months.

Before you leave

One of the top safety tips to avoid vehicle mishaps is planning ahead. Here is some guidance to help keep you safe on the road:

  • Although no longer mandatory, the Travel Risk Planning System (TRiPS) is an excellent tool to assist in the preparation of your vacation or PCS move. For more information on TRiPS, click the following link: https://trips.safety.army.mil/TRiPS.
  • 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 alternate routes 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 sites, you greatly reduce your risk of accidents and injury.
  • If possible, avoid driving at night, when conditions are more hazardous. Nocturnal animals could wander onto the road.
  • Before your trip, look into hotels along your route so you don’t have to make too big of a detour. Additionally, booking a hotel in advance can make stopping at night much easier.
  • If your trip is a long one, switch between drivers. Staring at the open road for hours on end can make you drowsy. To avoid falling asleep behind the wheel, switch between drivers every few hours if possible. If you’re driving alone, stop at a rest stop or gas station every couple of hours to stretch your legs and take a break.
  • Remember that it’s summer, so it will be hot out there. Should your vehicle break down, have something on hand to tide you over until help arrives. A small cooler with some 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:

  • 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 inside 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 advanced warning can be critical. Remember to put on your hazard lights!
  • In 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.

Rules for passengers

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 of these valuable tools can help ensure you reach your destination safely.

Author’s note: Tips included in this article are courtesy of Travelers Insurance, AAA, NHTSA, the Insurance Information Institute, National Safety Council, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the Department of Transportation.

  • 1 June 2021
  • Author: USACRC Editor
  • Number of views: 2297
  • Comments: 0
Categories: Off-DutyPMV-4