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Tips to Help You Drive Safe This Summer

We witness dangerous driving all the time, and while safe driving is largely your own responsibility, part of it involves being defensive and avoiding erratic, aggressive drivers.

A study by Dr. Donald Redelmeier at Sunnybrook hospital looked at every patient hospitalized at Sunnybrook after a car crash for the past 20 years, and concluded that more accidents happen on bright, sunny days. After cross-referencing these 6,962 patients with the time and place of their crashes, the study concluded that most life-threatening crashes happened in daylight, with risk increasing by 16% during bright sunlight. Turns out that the end of winter doesn’t necessarily equal safe driving conditions as many people assume.

Sharon Ramagnano, manager of trauma services at Sunnybrook says: “"I think during the sunny summer days drivers may assume the road conditions are good and may drive faster," she said. "There are also typically more people out on bright sunny days -- more pedestrians, more cyclists, more motorcycles and more cars -- and so drivers may be more distracted."

Here are some safe driving tips for the summer months:

Stay focused

Put your phone away!

Everyone knows that cell phones are distracting, and there are now restrictions on cell phone usage while driving in every province. Learn each province’s distracted driving penalties here. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police shared that even using a phone hands-free makes a driver less aware of the traffic around them, causing them to react more slowly to an important event or possibly not noticing the dangerous driving condition at all. According to our friends at CAA, you travel the length of a football field in the 5 seconds it takes to check a text message at 90 km/h. They also state that drivers engaged in manual interactions with their phones (like texting) are eight times as likely to be involved in a crash. You can find more stats on texting and driving here.

Keep the kids entertained

According to a 2013 study out of Monash University, children are 12 times more distracting to a driver than talking on a cell phone. Make sure your kids are properly restrained and talk to them about how distracted driving is dangerous driving and the importance of staying focused while behind the wheel. Give them games, snacks or even something to watch to keep them entertained. When possible, bring another adult to sit in the back and manage the little ones. Here are some ideas of things parents can keep in their cars that will help you drive safe this summer.

Turn down the volume

It feels pretty great to be driving down the road on a sunny day, windows down, music blaring. But driving with the music at top volume means you’re more likely to miss hearing sounds indicating engine trouble, plus it makes you less aware of what’s happening on the road around you. Drive safe and make sure your music is never loud enough to drown out a siren or the screeching brakes of another vehicle.

Plan ahead

Part of safe driving is knowing where you’re going – nervous drivers are more likely to have an accident, and drivers that know where they’re going are usually more confident and less likely to slow suddenly, swerve when they notice their exit at the last minute or creep along the road looking for an address. They’re also less likely to mess around with in-phone or in-dash navigation systems. If you do use your GPS, program your destination before you leave home, and drive safe with the system set to hands-free voice instructions.

Keep your vision clear

The Sunnybrook study saw increased risk of a crash on days with bright sunlight. Drive safe by keeping an extra set of sunglasses in your car so you’re never without them, and use your sun visor to minimize glare. You never know when the weather is going to change, and you never want to be driving west directly into the sunset, or east as its rising without an extra set of shades in your glove box.

Avoid dangerous driving – watch your speed

Transport Canada collision data shows that 27 per cent of fatalities and 19 per cent of serious injuries involve speeding. This type of dangerous driving is more common in younger drivers – in fact, 40 per cent of speeding drivers involved in fatal crashes were under 24 years of age. "Don't ruin a beautiful day with an ugly traffic crash," Dr. Redelmeier said. "In particular, recognize that your judgment may be mistaken in bright sunlight and tempt you toward excess speeding. Check your speedometer and respect the police who enforce speed limits even when conditions are seemingly perfect."

Remember pedestrians and cyclists

Sunny summer days usually mean more cyclists and pedestrians, making it especially important to be aware of what’s going on around you while you’re driving. Safe cycling and walking is just as important as safe driving, so do your part to keep the roads and sidewalks safe for our friends that choose not to take their car. Get tips on how to share the road with cyclists here.