10 Ideas For A Safer Summer Road Trip
Drivers preparing for a long overdue road trip can heed some sobering news and take some preventative steps to help keep your passengers safe while traveling.
According to a recent report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, traffic fatalities are at their highest level in 16 years and agencies have responded with new programs to reduce road incidents.
“This crisis on our roads is urgent and preventable,” said Dr. Steven Cliff, NHTSA’s Deputy Administrator. “We will redouble our safety efforts, and we need everyone – state and local governments, safety advocates, automakers, and drivers – to join us. All of our lives depend on it.”
A preliminary estimate released by NHTSA estimated 42,915 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes last year–a 10.5% increase from the 38,824 fatalities in 2020. The number reached a level not seen since 2005.
In late May, NHTSA launched its annual Click It or Ticket campaign to raise awareness about the seat belts.
NHTSA also introduced the Safe Streets and Roads for All program, which invests up to $6 billion over the next five years to reduce roadway crashes and fatalities. The program addresses speeds, lane markings and traffic lights on roads across the country.
Other parts of the program offer funding for the Highway Safety Improvement Program, which helps states adopt data-driven approaches to making roads safer.
The 2021 report offers insights for state-level accidents during the pandemic year of 2020. NHTSA estimated all 10 of its regions to report an increase in fatalities. That includes increases in 44 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico compared to 2020.
“In recent years, and continuing through the pandemic, we have seen disheartening and unacceptable increases in roadway fatalities and serious injury crashes,” says Jim Tymon, executive director of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.
Incidents parallel a dramatic increase in miles driven, estimates a report by the Federal Highway Administration. Vehicle miles traveled in 2021 increased by about 325 billion miles, or about 11.2%, compared to 2020.
“We can’t rely solely on the government to make our roads safer,” said Mark Chung, vice president of roadway practice at NSC. “Each road user must take safety personally by buckling up, slowing down and driving distraction- and impairment-free. Tens of thousands of lives will be saved.”
The National Safety Council provided the following suggestions for drivers going on road trips:
- Prepare your vehicle before going on the road. Make sure your car is safe for driving. Ask your service advisor for a pre-trip safety inspection.
- Make sure to check the oil and coolant levels as well as setting the proper amount of air in the tires.
- Ask your service advisor about any open recalls for your vehicle and get repairs at no charge.
- Always buckle all passengers. According to NSC, seat belts have saved an estimated 374,000 lives in the United States alone.
- Use the correct car seats for your children (see link below).
- Avoid driving distractions. According to NSC, thousands of people die in vehicle crashes due to cell phone use.
- Slow down. Traffic officials blame speeding for more than one-fourth of all fatalities.
- Pay special attention to pedestrians and cyclists.
- Designate a sober driver or arrange alternate transportation: Besides alcohol, other cases of impaired driving include prescription drugs, marijuana and some over-the-counter medicines. Always check the precautions listed on medicine bottles.
- Continue your driver’s education. Agencies such as NSC and NHTSA offer resources to assist both beginning and experienced drivers.
Miles driven during 2021, especially in the second half of the year, increased dramatically from the pandemic year of 2020. The effects of that increased showed dramatically in data compiled by NHTSA:
- Fatalities in multi-vehicle crashes were up 16%
- Fatalities on urban roads were up 16%
- Fatalities among drivers 65 and older increased 14%
- Pedestrian fatalities jumped by 13%
- Fatalities in crashes involving at least one large truck increased 13%
- Daytime fatalities grew by 11%
- Motorcyclist fatalities were up by 9%
- Bicyclist fatalities were up by 5%
- Fatalities in speeding-related crashes increased 5%
- Fatalities in police-reported, alcohol-involvement crashes increased 5%
For more information about the NHTSA 2021 fatality data go to:
For information about child safety seats: