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The period between Memorial Day and Labor Day is what is known as the “100 deadliest days” for young drivers on the road, according to Morgan Dean at AAA Mid-Atlantic.  

With teenagers out of school and summer vacations to get to,  the roads are definitely busier during the summer months. “More cars on the roads means more opportunities for crashes,” said Dean. “Teens don’t have as much experience behind the wheel, and can quickly get into trouble…that trouble goes up exponentially when speed, distractions, and impairment are involved.”  

AAA Mid-Atlantic used data from the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles to estimate the rate of fatalities in crashes related to speed, alcohol, or “unrestrained persons” increased in 2020 despite fewer cars on the road due to the pandemic. Some other common causes of crashes are distractions such as cell phones, other passengers, and food and drink.

AAA Mid-Atlantic predicts there will be 970,000 cars on the road in Virginia this year, which is up about 5 percent from last year, but down by 8 percent from pre-pandemic levels, according to Dean. Therefore, it is likely that this summer will experience more traffic on the roads than last summer “with all of the pent-up demand we’ve seen from two years of COVID restrictions,” he said.

Thankfully, AAA has several tips for drivers to keep in mind this summer to help ensure the roads are safe.

“Setting the GPS or onboard electronics before leaving the driveway helps limit distractions.  Designating a co-pilot to hold your phone and answer texts and calls can go a long way in helping a driver stay focused too,” said Dean.  “Having your vehicle checked out, especially if routine maintenance may not have been done over the past two years, will help you make sure your car is road-ready. They can change the oil, check the fluids, check tire pressure wear and tear, windshield wipers, and air filters.  Not only do they give the driver some peace of mind, but they can also help improve gas mileage too with prices at record high levels.”

AAA Mid-Atlantic also recommends keeping an emergency kit in your car, especially after a stretch of I-95 shut down in January and stranded drivers on the road for nearly 30 hours.

Some things AAA suggests keeping in the emergency kit:

• Water (one gallon per person per day for at least three days)

• Three day supply of non-perishable food

• Jumper cables

• Tools

• Flashlight (and extra batteries)

• First aid kit

• Paper towels, toilet paper, and sanitizing wipes

• Cell phone, charger, and portable charger

• Pet food and extra water

• Prescription medications

• Consider a container so that your kit could be portable if you have to evacuate

 Some of the items in this kit could be particularly useful in case of sudden inclement weather.  

“Hot weather storms can move in quickly, dropping a lot of rain that can create ponding and flooding on the roadways,” said Dean. “Turn around, don’t drown. If you don’t know how deep the water is, don’t risk driving through it.”

Of course, there are also year-round safe driving practices to keep in mind.  “Buckle Up, obey the speed limit, avoid or limit distractions and never get behind the wheel if you’re under the influence of drugs and alcohol,” he said. “Additionally, staying focused as a driver, avoiding aggressive drivers if possible, and stopping regularly to help ward off drowsy driving are also important.”

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