Annual road trips are a summer tradition for many families, with much flocking south to Florida for our world-renowned beaches, boating, sunshine, and theme parks. Last year alone, Florida welcomed approximately 122 million visitors – and that’s not including residents who traveled from one corner of the state to another on a “staycation.” It’s our sincere hope that every tourist and traveler enjoys a safe, fun-filled visit to the Sunshine State. However, for many reasons, summer is inextricably linked to increased odds of involvement in a Florida car accident.
The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety reports a higher accident risk throughout the country from June through August. Traffic deaths are 30 times more likely in the summer than during other seasons.
Given that summer road trips – and particularly Florida roads in the summertime – have some unique dangers, our Florida car accident attorneys are offering some insight on what those are, and tips for avoiding them.
Road Risks Specific to Summer
When it comes to summertime travel, there are a few risk factors that increase the likelihood of a crash.
- More teen drivers on the road. This isn’t Florida-specific. With more teens out of school for the summer, more are on the roads – driving to their part-time jobs, helping their families run errands, and visiting friends. AAA reports teen drivers 16-17 are three times more likely to be involved in a deadly crash compared to older drivers, and the 100 days between Memorial Day and Labor Day are among the deadliest. Teen drivers are not only inexperienced, they tend to be more easily distracted and risk-prone when it comes to speeding, racing, and other aggressive driving maneuvers. They’re also less likely to buckle up. (Check out our recent blog on the Seat Belt Defense and how it can impact your South Florida car accident case.)
- Holiday binge drinking. In general, more people are out and about during the summer months. Memorial Day, Juneteenth, Father’s Day, the 4th of July, Labor Day – all of these tend to be associated with backyard cookouts, beach days, boating – and booze. Alcohol can impair judgment and increase risk-taking behaviors. The four deadliest holidays on the road are all during the summer: Memorial Day, Labor Day, Independence Day, and Father’s Day.
Road Risks Specific to Florida
In addition to the typical risks of summertime driving, there are a few areas of concern specific to drivers in Florida. Among these:
- Slick roads during summer rainy season. In Southwest Florida, we get an average of 56 inches of rainfall annually. Most of that occurs during the summer months. Just as drivers up north must exercise special caution when driving in snow or ice, motorists in South Florida need to be especially careful when driving in heavy rain during thunderstorms. Here, we offer tips on driving safely during a Florida downpour.
- More motorcyclists, bicyclists, and pedestrians. Although South Florida has great weather year-round, we still have more motorcyclists, bicyclists, and pedestrians sharing the roads during summer months. These vulnerable road users are tougher to spot – and more likely to suffer severe injuries if they’re involved in a crash with a car or truck. They’re also at higher risk of hit-and-run crashes. Florida consistently ranks as the most dangerous state (or among the top three most dangerous) in the country for all three. It is imperative if you are walking, riding a bicycle, or operating a motorcycle on Florida roads that you remain alert, sober, and drive defensively at all times.
Road Risks Specific to Travelers
Florida thrives on tourism, and we welcome visitors with open arms. That said, we want to ensure anyone road tripping to Florida – or driving while they’re here – takes certain precautions to ensure they’re safe.
- Vehicle malfunctions. If you’re going to be putting some miles on your vehicle this summer, make sure everything is in good working condition. That goes beyond just getting your oil changed. Check your belts and hoses, which can degrade faster in the summer heat (especially in South Florida). Check your tires, making sure each tire is filled to the manufacturer’s recommended inflation pressure (listed on the owner’s manual). Look closely at the tread (should be at least 2/32 of an inch ore more). If your tires are older than 6 years, replace them regardless of use. Make sure the windshield wipers are functional and have adequate fluid. Verify all your fluid levels, and have your batteries looked at by a mechanic before you leave. Do a quick check of all your lights and signals too. Take a quick look at floor mats too, especially after you’ve had it cleaned or detailed (improperly installed mats can interfere with accelerator or brake pedals, leading to a crash risk). Check the NHTSA website for any vehicle recalls. You can also use the SaferCar app to be alerted to potential recalls. Make sure you check any rental vehicles for recalls as well (you can look it up by year/make/model or with the VIN). Finally, make sure everyone wears a seat belt and that any children in the vehicle are using a car seat or booster seat that is appropriate for their age and size.
- Driver distraction. Drivers on long road trips may be at heightened risk of driver distraction, particularly as they navigate unfamiliar roads. It’s best if possible to appoint a passenger as the “navigator,” so you aren’t constantly having to look down at a GPS navigation screen. If you’re in an unfamiliar area, make sure to slow down and pay extra attention.
- Driver fatigue. Drivers on long trips are often more prone to fatigue/drowsy driving, especially if they are powering through an overnight haul to reach their destination. Drowsy driving crashes occur most frequently between midnight and 6 a.m. Monotonous rural roads and driveways tend to be especially dangerous. There may be some strategies you can employ to get you by for a bit (drinking coffee, listening to loud music, talking to a passenger, etc.), but the only way to truly avoid drowsy driving is to get adequate sleep. If you find yourself nodding off, you’re a danger to yourself and others on the road. It’s best to pull over and get some sleep before continuing on or let someone else who’s well-rested take a turn behind the wheel.
Those planning road trips to Florida should make sure their vehicle is fully-stocked: Cell phone and charger, First aid kit, flashlight, flares & white flag, jumper cables, tire pressure gauge, jack for changing tire, basic repair tools, water & paper towels, non-perishable food and medicines, extra washer fluid, and emergency blankets and towels. Stay aware of the weather, road conditions, and traffic, and plan enough so that you have plenty of time to get safely to your destination and you aren’t rushed.
If you are involved in a car accident while visiting Florida, it’s best to talk to a local injury lawyer who understands state law, insurance policies, and claim procedures.