One may find counterintuitive a long-established pattern in traffic safety statistics. The time of year when most of the external risk factors for safe driving are at their lowest—the sunny dry months of high summer offering clear visibility and smooth, sticky-not-slippery road surfaces—happens also to be the time of year in which most crashes, fatalities and injuries occur.
Now as we approach the end of summer, our collective challenge becomes making it through the Labour Day weekend without reinforcing this pattern. It can be done with lots of mindfulness on the part of all road-users, a category that becomes more diversified with every new development in mobility technology: passenger car, SUV and van drivers, passenger bus drivers, light and heavy truck-drivers, motorcyclists, scooter-drivers, sport and city bicyclists—the list of bicycle types is ever-growing—pedestrians of all ages with varying degrees of self-propelling mobility capability, including those who depend on walkers, multi-wheel scooters or wheelchairs, and the ‘fast skaters’: the rollerbladers, skateboarders, and longboarders. No doubt we have missed a type or two.
It’s a mobile world out there and it takes a huge collective effort of mindfulness for everyone to share the roads, stay safe and not crash.
The problem with summer is that everyone wants and tries to use the roads. Sub-urbanites head into the city to enjoy the summer events on offer, while urbanites head in the opposite direction. Escape is their agenda. It’s the season for long family road trips, for short hops across the border or to the Gulf Islands, for late-night summer bar-be-ques, and early-morning bike rides. When you stop to think about the underlying reasons for this statistical pattern we see the reason – many people are on the move.
The good news is that collective mindfulness involves nothing particularly new or different. Safety experts offer up the same old checklist…because the statistics show that collectively in the summer, despite more traffic volume, despite being on the road more often, we seem to forget the safety ‘shoulds’ and ‘should-nots’. For instance, drinking and driving is still a significant concern in the summer as is drug-impaired driving, texting and driving, and hand-held cell phone use while driving.
Drivers of all vehicle types need to think in terms of lumping together all the behaviours that impede maximum clear-headedness, road focus, and attention while driving…and not doing them. Drivers also get tired—too tired to be driving—in the summer.
The extra push late at night to make it to the desired destination can be the step too far. It happens. It can happen to any of us. The car may be stuffed to the gills with vacation gear. Don’t stuff it so that seat belts are difficult to dig out and worn properly. It’s also a great time to seat belt your pets. They need special consideration on long road trips as much as any other passenger.
It is also the season for motorcyclists. Motorcycling road safety ‘trend lines’ are still heading in the wrong direction. Beautiful summer weather does not suspend the laws of physics regarding speed. We all need to remember this.