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What to Do if Your Car Breaks Down in the SummerSummer is a time for relaxing and kicking back. Widespread vaccinations this year are encouraging extended families to bond again. After being confined for so long, it’s great to think about traveling to parks, the homes of friends, and vacation locales. There are risks to summertime travel, though. You need to make sure your car is ready for the trip, and you need to make sure you know how to respond to road emergencies when they happen.

Michelin study reveals that more crashes occur in the summer

According to a 2017 study by Michelin, summer’s long daylight hours and fair climate give too many drivers a false sense of security. The study revealed that two-thirds of drivers say they feel safer driving in the summertime because of nice weather and better road conditions.

Unfortunately, the statistics don’t support that level of confidence. The study reports that more car accidents happen in the summer (which informally begins with Memorial Day) than any other season. As a rule, summertime drivers are three times “less likely to be vigilant, (e.g., alert and focused on immediate surroundings) while driving during summer months than during winter.”

Other differences noted by the study include:

  • 81% of drivers say that during the summertime, they don’t take the same care with stopping, making turns, or noticing how fast they’re going as other seasons.
  • 72% say they pay less attention to other drivers in summer than in the winter.
  • Drivers by a 3-to-1 ratio are less likely to check the status of the tires on their vehicles in the summer, because drivers in winter are worried about slipping and icy roads. The reality, however, according to a driving safety professional for Michelin, is that the summer heat also takes a toll on tires. Many drivers during the summer actually drive with tires that are under-inflated.

Chicago summertime driving tips

Michelin recommends that drivers take the following actions in the summer to help reduce the risk of car crashes.

  • Get your vehicle tuned-up. The checkup should include topping off the oil and fluid levels, making sure the windshield wipers work, testing the battery, and checking the headlights.
  • Check the tread and pressure on your tires. You can use a penny to check the tread. The tire pressure should match the manufacturer’s recommending setting. Tires that don’t have enough pressure offer less traction, can reduce fuel efficiency, wear out prematurely and, most importantly, suffer unnoticed and irreparable damage that compromises their performance and safety.” Checking your tires includes checking the spare tire in the trunk.
  • Understand the safe distancing rules. Make sure you leave enough room between you and the car in front of you.
  • Avoid distractions. The nice scenery and the joy of summer make it easy to get distracted, but remember that driver distraction is a leading cause of accidents. Don’t use your phone while driving. Don’t eat or drink while driving.
  • Take rest breaks. Make sure you’re not tired. It’s important to stretch your legs and take a breather during long trips. Rest breaks also are a way of being kind to your passengers.

It’s also smart to plan your trip before you get into the car, setting up your GPS and route in advance. Be on the lookout for motorcycle and bicycle riders who also enjoy the warmer weather. And never use summer as an excuse to drink and drive.

Be prepared for the possibility your car may break down

Michelin advises that drivers keep an emergency kit in their vehicle that includes:

  • Jumper cables
  • Flashlights with batteries that work
  • Reflective materials
  • Water and non-perishable food
  • A first-aid kit
  • Number for a roadside assistance company

Other steps to take if your car isn’t working include:

  • Listen to your car. Unusual noises, smoke coming out of the engine, difficulty steering, and other odd signs indicate that continuing to drive is asking for trouble. Check your headlights before you start your trip to make sure they’re working.
  • Find a safe place to pull over if possible. A parking lot is ideal. Use the shoulder of the road if necessary – be sure to park as far away from traffic as possible. Use your car’s blinkers to warn other drivers.
  • If your car stops in the middle of the road, think through whether it’s safe to leave the car and walk to where there isn’t traffic. If it’s not safe for you and your passengers to exit the car, then stay in the car. Put on your hazards. The equation may change if there’s smoke coming out of your car.
  • Take steps to alert other drivers so they don’t crash into your car. In addition to turning on the hazard lights, raise the hood of the car and use flares or other signals if you have them.
  • Call a roadside assistance company. Call AAA or your insurance carrier to ask for roadside help. You can also call a garage to tow your car. If you run out of options, call 911 or a non-emergency police line.

Don’t take risks. With a little precaution, you can enjoy the summer while protecting yourself and your family.

As summer approaches, you should take steps to prepare your car now. If an accident does happen, you’ll need to contact the police and your insurance company. You should also call an experienced Chicago car accident lawyer. At Gainsberg Law P.C., we’ve been advising car crash victims for 20 years. We work aggressively to hold the responsible parties accountable for your injuries or the death of a loved one. To discuss your case, give us a call at 312.600.9585 or use our contact form to schedule an appointment. We handle car crash cases on a contingency fee basis.