More Canadians die on the roads during the summer months than at any other time of the year. Consumption of alcohol or drug, drive while fatigue, not wearing seatbelts, poor mechanical fitness of vehicle and aggressive driving are often implicated in these tragedies. The External link, opens in a new windowCanada Safety Council urges all Canadians to put safety first when they set out on their summer travels.

Summer Road Trip

Impaired Driving

Impaired driving is one of the leading causes of death in Canada. Approximately 1 in three collisions involve alcohol and 1 in ten drivers after 10 P.M. have consumed alcohol. According to statistics from External link, opens in a new windowTraffic Injury Research Foundation, most alcohol-related crashes do not occur during the winter months (December, January, February). The greatest numbers of alcohol-related crashes occur during the summer months (June, July, August), contrary to popular opinion.

One of the myths is that drivers believe they drive better after having a few drinks. Having a few drinks will affect a person’s judgement and reaction negatively. Other popular myths are I can have 1 drink per hour - FALSE, I can drink a cup of coffee to sober up - FALSE, I can take a cold shower to sober up - FALSE, and I can eat something and I won’t be as impaired - FALSE. The concentration of alcohol in a person will only be gradually eliminated with the passage of time. Don’t drink at all if you are planning to drive.

The number drugs with or without alcohol impairments have gone up more than 40% from 2004 to 2007. A wide range of drugs (illicit as well as prescription and even some sold over-the-counter) has impairing effects on driving-related skills. It is also known that many of these drugs are found in drivers involved in serious road crashes - as many as 25% of fatally injured drivers have been found to be positive for some psychoactive substance (Traffic Injury Research Foundation).

If you have consumed drugs (illegal or otherwise), then don’t drive. You can be charged with impaired driving under the Criminal Code of Canada even your BAC is below the legal limit, or if you have not been drinking at all; if the police officer determines that your ability to operate the vehicle is impaired by drug and/or alcohol.

Since the implementation of Bill C-2 in July 2008, there have been 182 drug impaired driving charges in Canada. In 2007, prior to the Bill coming into effect, there were 70 charges. There are 337 certified Drug Recognition Experts in Canada with a further 87 awaiting certification.

Drive While Fatigue

Canadians often travel tremendous distance when they go on vacations. This creates a temptation to keep driving for extended periods even when tired. On top of this, many of our routes are quite monotonous, another factor that can make a driver sleepy.

Fatigue is a form of impairment, so don’t give into the temptation to push on. If you started your day early, then stop early. If you feel fatigued, have a good sleep before you take the wheel. It might be better to delay your trip until the morning when you feel fresh and energized. Rest stops are important. A stretch break keeps the driver alert by promoting blood circulation, makes the trip more pleasant for passengers. If you are traveling with young children, regular stops are a must. Bring plenty of items to keep them occupied. Special travel games and songs also help.

It is never safe to leave a child, a vulnerable person or a pet alone in a vehicle. Even on days that appear cool, the passenger compartment can turn into an oven in 20 minutes or less with potentially deadly consequences.

Seat Belts Usage and Mechanical Fitness

One of the most important safety precautions is to make sure everyone is properly buckled up, which includes using child car seats and booster seats. Click External link, opens in a new windowhere for more information on child car/booster seats.

Before leaving on vacation, have your vehicle inspected to make sure it is mechanically sounded. Repair or replace worn parts to avoid costly and time-consuming repairs that could spoil your road trip. Check all tires, including the spar tire, for condition and pressure. Replace your windshield wiper blades if they are worn or cracked. Make sure all lights work, including those on a trailer if you are hauling one. Keep a flashlight, flares and first aid kit at a place that can be easily reached in an emergency. Program or adjust your global position system (GPS) or any electronic device before you head out on the road. BC’s distracted driving law prohibits the use of electronic devices by drivers when driving. GPS is one of the electronic devices named in the Motor Vehicle Act.

It is a good idea to check your vehicle’s fluid levels, tire inflation and lights when you stop at a service station for gas. A few minutes of checking can save you hours of costly repairs down the road.

If you are hauling a trailer, it means you need more space to stop, pass or turn. Keep your distance. When traveling slower than the flow of traffic, be courteous. Pull over where possible to let faster vehicles pass. Check and make sure your vehicle is properly equipped for the job. You can do it by checking your owner’s manual or contacting your auto dealer.

Drive Defensively and Avoid Aggressive Driving

Besides keeping braking distance with the vehicle in front of yours, take extreme care when backing or turning. Keep out of other vehicle’s blind spots. Obey all signs and signals - including speed limits, traffic lights, stop signs and railway crossings. Don’t create undue risk or endanger other road users by tailgating, closing gaps to prevent merging, driving erratically, speeding, changing lanes in an unsafe manner, and yelling or gesturing at others.

When encountering an aggressive driver: DO recognize every driver makes mistakes from time to time, calm yourself by talking through the situation, call 911 (if the situation warranted and you are in a safe location), and count to 20, breath and relax. DON’T get angry, gesture or yell back, or reciprocate the high risk driving behavior.

The RCMP in British Columbia wish all road users a safe and enjoyable summer.

Dedicated to Improving public safety on our roadways.