The Hazards of Summer Driving
Winter driving in West Michigan can include ice, snow, sleet and slush with little to no warning it’s coming but Summer driving offers its own set of challenges. While it is nice to not have to worry about icy or slippery roads during the summer months, these hazards of summer driving can increase your risk of an accident if you are not careful.
As the warm weather increases, the air inside tires expands and can create problems for tires that are overinflated and already damaged. In addition, an increase of weight loads from pulling trailers and boats can cause a strain to tires that aren’t in their best shape. Stay proactive by checking your tires regularly for their condition and pressure to make sure they are in good condition to avoid ending up with a flat tire while driving.
You know the saying, there are few guarantees in life except death, taxes and road construction in West Michigan. Summer is definitely the season of orange barrels and road closures! But all those detours and delays can be more than annoying, they can be accidents waiting to happen. The hard facts are that 4,908 crashes took place in 2016 alone and sadly 17 fatalities during the course of that timeframe in construction zones which should capture your attention and bring to light how serious driving through these zones can be. To save yourself from becoming another one of the statistics, follow these helpful tips… slow down while driving in construction zones, follow posted speed limits, remove all distractions including phone use and pay attention to traffic shifts and patterns, allow for extra space between your vehicle and the one in front of you, avoid any unnecessary lane changes and merge in a timely matter.
Bad weather is not unique to winter in Grand Rapids. Heavy rain, strong winds and thunderstorms can lead to difficult driving with the increased risk of hydroplaning, lack of visibility and flash flooding. If you find yourself caught in a storm, it’s important to reduce speed, increase following distance and discontinue use of cruise control which increases the risk of hydroplaning.
When driving in hot climates, high temperatures can aggravate cooling system problems too. It’s important to check the coolant and cooling system regularly to avoid overheating as well as paying attention to any dummy lights that may be registering on your dashboard.
It may be surprising to many drivers but dirt roads and gravel roads can be just as slippery and hazardous as driving on ice. Because dirt and gravel surfaces are full of loose materials, it is much easier for tires to lose their traction and in turn, the vehicle above them to lose control. High speeds and quick manoeuvers on gravel roads are ingredients for disaster. Even really well-maintained gravel roads tend to have rough sections and loose gravel that require lower speeds. In fact, most accidents on them can be prevented simply by slowing down.
It’s not unusual in rural areas such as in Hastings, Wayland and Caledonia for drivers to cross paths with farm equipment driving on the road which can create an unsafe situation for both the driver of the vehicle and the farm equipment. If you live, work or commute through an area populated with farm fields, drive with caution, especially during planting and harvest seasons. Slow down as soon as you see a tractor or similar type vehicle and watch for any hand signals they may be use to indicate they are turning before trying to pass.
With summer comes vacations both on the weekends and during the weekdays. With all those added travelers on the road, combined with the dreaded construction zones on popular roadways, leads to traffic jams and gridlock. Heavy traffic conditions contribute to difficult driving conditions, and with many of these drivers being unfamiliar with the roads and areas only adds to erratic driving in general. When you find yourself in these situations, take a deep breath and remember that arriving safely is the number one goal.
With the warm and drier weather, comes the opportunity for people who love to experience the open road on two wheels to finally get out and ride their motorcycle or bicycle for their daily commutes. As a smaller profile vehicle, both cyclists and motorcyclists are much more challenging to see while driving, while additionally offering them far less protection in the event of an accident compared to their four-wheel counterparts. Because of this, Michigan law has recently been changed to provide cyclists 3 feet of safe space when a vehicle will be passing them on the road as well as programs aimed to increase driver’s awareness of these at-risk vehicles.
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