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Friday, September 04, 2009

Summer Driving Tips: Labor Day Weekend

Here it is; the last big weekend of summer. This Labor Day weekend millions of drivers will be hitting the road for one final summer getaway before everyone goes back to school and the weather turns cool. Due to the late date of Labor Day this year, it is projected that fewer travelers will be hitting the road this year than last but it is still projected to be one of the busiest holiday travel weekends of 2009. The 78 hour Labor Day weekend travel period will run from 6:00 pm Friday through midnight Monday.

Whether you are going to the beach, the mountains, or a local lake, there are some common things to watch out for:

  • Crowds - Beach parking lots or small town festivals will mean big crowds. Be on the lookout for pedestrians and especially for children darting out into the street or behind your vehicle. More than 2 children a week are killed in the US when a vehicle backs up over them. Remember, no matter how small your vehicle is, you still have a large blind spot behind so be especially careful when backing out of a parking space.

  • Motorcycles and Bicycles - This is the last big weekend to get out onto the road and feel the wind in your hair or to take that cross country biking trip. Drivers should be aware that motorcycles and bicycles have a right to share the road and should be treated as you would treat any other vehicle. Cyclists should also remember that they are required to follow all traffic laws just as they would in a car. Because they have a low profile, motorists often don't see a cycle until it is too late. For motorists who are entering traffic from a driveway or an intersection, remember the rule; look left, right, and then left again, before proceeding.

  • Pace Yourself – A long day at the beach under the hot sun will tire you out. To prevent fatigue and dehydration make sure you eat well and don't use alcohol to satisfy your thirst. Alcohol will increase your dehydration and the hot sun combined with the dehydration will only compound the effects of the alcohol. Don't stay so long that you are totally worn out before you hit the road. If necessary, take turns driving home to avoid falling asleep behind the wheel. Don't rely on energy drinks to make up for a lack of sleep.

The most common factors leading to deaths on the road during the holiday period are lack of seat belt use and alcohol consumption.

  • Alcohol - A nationwide crackdown announced by the US Secretary of Transportation will be targeting both. The campaign, known as "Drunk Driving. Over the Limit. Under Arrest" will involve 11,000 police departments across the country in a coordinated effort to remove drunk drivers from the road. More than 40 percent of the traffic fatalities during Labor Day weekend 2008 involved a drunk driver. If you are caught drinking and driving, you will be arrested. Alcohol use is also the most common contributing factor in boating deaths. Remember you can be arrested for "BUI" (Boating Under the Influence) and the penalties are essentially the same as for DUI.

  • Seat Belts - The police will also be targeting seat belt use. Most states have passed laws making seat belt use mandatory for all vehicle occupants. There are still approximately 20 percent of drivers and vehicle occupants who haven't gotten the word that seat belts are the primary piece of safety equipment in the car and they save lives. There is no guarantee that you won't be killed or injured in a traffic collision while wearing a seat belt but your chances for survival increase by 45 to 50 percent if you do.

Have a happy and enjoyable Labor Day weekend and get home safe.

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