Fair-Weather Drivers: Summer Madness

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Good weather can cause even more problems than bad.

A few years ago, I interviewed a police officer whose division investigated crashes resulting in fatalities or severe injuries. He mentioned an interesting fact: while there are more collisions overall in snowy weather, the highest numbers of fatal crashes occur when roads are dry, the skies are sunny, and visibility is good.

The reasons, it appears, are because people tend to drive faster, they’re more likely to make their turns or other manoeuvres with less space to spare because of overconfidence, and in some cases, the longer days mean they’re spending more time behind the wheel and getting fatigued.

False sense of security

In a recent U.S. survey conducted by Michelin, two out of three drivers reported feeling safer when driving in summer because of better road conditions and nicer weather. In reality, they can be at higher risk because they or other drivers are not always paying as much attention. The report found that 81 percent of drivers were less likely to drive cautiously in summer, while 72 percent said they were less likely to pay attention to other drivers in comparison with winter motoring.

Other factors can include more likelihood of drivers who have been drinking, especially during the day on weekends, or tourists who are unfamiliar with their surroundings and more likely to make mistakes. That won’t be the case with your fleet drivers, but they’re sharing the road with people like this.

Rain equals slick

When the weather does turn, rain can be as dangerous as snow. It restricts visibility, and when it rains the first time after a dry spell, it mixes with oil residue on the asphalt to create an unexpectedly slick surface. But even dry pavement can cause problems: drivers may hit the brakes later because they think they’re able to stop quicker, while hot asphalt makes tires run hotter, especially if they’re underinflated.

Tips for survival

Keeping your fleet in one piece depends on making sure your drivers are as diligent in hot weather as they are in cold:

Make sure drivers keep to the speed limits. If you suspect this is a problem, look into programs or apps that can keep tabs on driver behaviour.

Remind drivers to watch for pedestrians, bicycles and motorcycles. Not only are there more out of them out on the road, but they may not be as visible on very sunny days. It’s especially important to double-check at intersections, as many motorcycle collisions are the result of car drivers making turns in front of bikes going straight. On right turns, check the side mirror for cyclists or pedestrians who may be coming up to cross at the intersection.

Exercise caution around vehicles with out-of-province plates, as tourists may make sudden moves if they see something or miss a turn. Also be careful when driving near recreational trailers, which aren’t always well-maintained.

Be diligent about checking tire pressure, and making sure your fleet’s tires and brakes are in good condition. Remind drivers to keep their distance from vehicles in front, even if the roads are dry.

Watch for traffic signs that may be hidden by trees or shrubs.

Glare from bright sunshine can be tiring, and drivers should wear sunglasses when necessary. Of course, it goes without saying that seatbelts are mandatory, even between short stops on deliveries.

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