Cities and attractions are opening up, vaccination rates are on the rise and COVID-related pandemic restrictions are being lessened or eliminated entirely in some cases. America’s itch for wanderlust is about to be scratched in a big way this summer with vacations back on the table for millions of families.
Domestic travel is expected to reign supreme this summer with many international destinations still closed to Americans or subject to rapidly changing entry and quarantine restrictions.
Over the past Memorial Day holiday weekend the American Automobile Association (AAA) estimated more than 37 million traveled 50 miles or more from home, an increase of 60% from last year when only 23 million traveled, the lowest on record since AAA began recording in 2000.
While these numbers are still 13% lower than the 2019 Memorial Day numbers, the large increase highlights the importance of vigilance more than ever when it comes to safety on the road.
In March of this year, the nonprofit National Safety Council (NSC) issued a startling report stating that 42,060 people died in vehicle crashes in 2020, an 8% increase over 2019 and the first jump in four years.
Even more frightening was the fact that the fatality rate per 100 million miles driven climbed 24%, the largest annual percentage increase since the council began collecting data in 1923 (source: NSC).
Anyone who drove during the pandemic undoubtedly encountered far fewer cars and wide-open roads. So why the dramatic increase in deaths? The number one cause according to the NSC was speed. With lanes wide open and many drivers on edge or anxious while out of the house, the temptation was great for pushing speed and safety limits. Additionally, alcohol and controlled substance related accidents rose as well, likely due to more individuals using these things to cope with ongoing pandemic-related stress.
As a result, insurers saw a dramatic increase in higher-value claims where vehicles were completely totaled or may have also included significant property damage or liability claims from injuries or deaths to other occupants or drivers. These spikes in high-value claims have directly lead to higher insurance premiums for drivers.
As the summer travel season is entering full swing with additional cars now on the road, it is more essential than ever to practice safe driving to reduce accidents, fatalities and skyrocketing insurance rates.
Courtesy of AAA, below are a number of important safety tips before hitting the road to ensure a safe summer driving season for us all:
- Check your tire pressure at least once a month and especially before a long trip maintaining the manufacturer recommended pressure (all 5 tires — don’t forget the spare!)
- Check and clean your car battery terminals
- Replace wiper blades and refill washer fluid
- Avoid overloading your vehicle, which can create excessive heat inside your tires and result in vehicle damage and/or personal injury — Check your owner’s manual for maximum weight and towing capacity (if applicable)
- Check the tread and sidewalls of your tires, watching for uneven wear pattern which usually means you need a wheel alignment; also run your fingers along the tread and feel for lumps which mean that the tire is not balanced correctly.
- Obey all speed limits and avoid all types of impaired driving, including distracted driving while using a phone or other device.
If drivers commit to safer driving practices this summer, overall accident and fatality rates will fall, eventually leading to reduced serious claims paid by insurers and eventual premium reductions.