Summer Driving Safety Tips

Did you know that 86 per cent of collisions in Alberta involve at least one driver committing an avoidable error? Before hitting the road in the summer months, protect yourself – and fellow drivers – by brushing up on your driver safety tips.

 

Tires

checking tire pressure with gauge

Tires are often the most neglected part of a vehicle. They should be checked visually prior to each trip, and at least once a month with a tire gauge. Not only will improperly inflated tires affect handling and performance, they can have a negative impact on safety devices such as antilock braking systems, traction control systems, and stability control systems.

Did you know, for instance, that many tire blowouts are caused by improperly inflated tires? The low air pressure causes tire heating and ultimately rubber failure. And if the pressure is really low, the rim will dig into the tire’s liner, compromising the structure.

Other good tire tips include:

  • Check the condition and placement of the spare tire.
  • Measure tire pressure when the tires are cold. "Cold" means that a vehicle has been stationary for at least three hours or has not been driven more than 2 km.

Checking tires will benefit drivers by improving handling and braking performance. Other benefits to proper tire inflation include increased driver safety, longer tire service life, better fuel economy, and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

 

Blowouts

truck with blown out tire

Do you know what to do if you have a tire blowout? Having put hundreds of drivers through our Roadbot driving simulator’s “tire blowout” module, I can tell you that most people respond incorrectly to such a situation. This bears out in NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) data, which shows that tire-related crashes are linked to 700 deaths in North America every year.

No matter which tire blows out – the front or the rear – the steps for safely maintaining control of your vehicle are the same; the only difference is in how you feel it. In a front tire blowout, you will feel the force more in the vehicle’s steering in the direction of the tire that has blown; in a rear blowout, you will feel it more in the seat or body of the vehicle.

Remember, the goal in any blowout scenario is to keep the vehicle balanced and under control. Keep calm, as any overreaction – including oversteering, slamming on the brakes or abruptly removing your foot from the accelerator – can result in a loss of vehicle control.

Should you ever have a tire blowout, AMA recommends the following steps:

  • Hold the steering wheel with both hands (preferably in the 9 & 3 steering position).
  • Gradually release the accelerator.
  • Look well ahead, steering where you want to go to stabilize your vehicle and regain control. Correct the steering as necessary.
  • Once your vehicle has stabilized, apply gentle pressure to the brake pedal. Continue to slow down and pull off the road.
  • Park in a safe place and put your hazard lights on.

 

Vehicle Checks

man inspecting truck wheel well

Prior to hitting the road, always do a walk-around inspection to check for obstacles behind or near your vehicle. You should also check your lights, windows, and visual condition of the tires. The latter includes:

  • Check the inside of the wheels for brake fluid or mud build-up
  • Check the tire pressure.
    • Many drivers look at the sidewall of the tire to see the maximum amount of air that can go in the tire. But the maximum is not the optimum. The recommended pressures are printed on the vehicle's tire information label/tire placard, which is usually attached to the edge of the driver's door, the door post, the glove box or the fuel door.
    • If you can't find the label, check your owner's manual.
  • Check the tire tread.
    • The minimum allowable tread depth is 1.6mm (2/32”) on all four tires for cars, light trucks and multi-purpose passenger vehicles/SUVs.
    • If you don't have a tread-depth gauge, a quick way to measure your tires is with a Canadian toonie. Just put the outside edge of the toonie in your tire’s tread and if your tire tread reaches only about halfway into the letters, your tires are not safe and need to be replaced.
  • Check the condition of the lug nuts and valve cap.

 

Emergency Vehicles

fire truck speeding through city

If you’re travelling west on a two-way urban roadway and an emergency vehicle is approaching from the east with lights and sirens activated, do you have to yield to it? If you’re not sure, you’re not alone; in fact, most drivers are uncertain of the rules. To clear things up, when an ambulance, firetruck or police emergency vehicle is approaching from any direction with lights and sirens activated, you must yield the right-of-way.

These are the proper steps:

  • Safely move your vehicle to allow the emergency vehicle passage.
  • Drive as close as safely possible to the right curb or edge of a two-way roadway.
  • If on a one-way street, drive right or left to the nearest curb.
  • If you’re in the middle of an intersection when an emergency vehicle approaches with lights and sirens activated, safely clear the intersection.
  • Come to a complete stop until the emergency vehicle has passed. Check that no other emergency vehicles are approaching.

To be more aware of emergency vehicles, look at least 15 to 20 seconds ahead and check the mirrors every 5 to 8 seconds. If you see that you’re driving in the lane next to an emergency vehicle (or tow truck) that is stopped at the side of the road with their lights flashing, slow down to 60 km/h (or less, if the speed limit is lower) and drive with increased caution. Even better, to give them room to work safely, move over one lane if possible. If there’s a full lane buffer between you and the emergency vehicle or tow truck, you may continue at the posted speed limit. Lastly, if following behind an emergency vehicle with sirens or lights operating, maintain a safe following distance of at least 150 metres.

 

How's Your Summer Driving Knowledge?

Let's put it to the test! Take our Summer Driving Quiz to see if you make the grade.


I am a Fleet Safety Operations Manager with 30 years of experience teaching traffic safety across five provinces, and in four countries. Outside of work, I am an avid traveller, a fervent Flames fan, and a Mustang enthusiast.