July 6th, 2020| In California, we’re fortunate to have some of the most accommodating, beautiful weather in the U.S. But we’re also no strangers to extreme heat. Northern California has already experienced one heat wave this year, and the chances are good that more will come. As we head into the hottest days of summer, it’s a good time to re-evaluate your plan for dealing with extreme heat on our roads. A well-laid plan can be the difference between a mild roadside inconvenience and a serious emergency.
Vehicle MaintenanceBefore you even think about hitting the road, you’ll want to be sure your vehicle is prepared for the heat. During the summer months, it’s especially important to:
- Check your car battery often – The heat is a major drain on your battery. Check it frequently throughout the summer, especially if the battery is old or shows signs of corrosion.
- Watch your coolant levels – If it’s been several thousand miles since you checked or replaced your coolant, the beginning of the summer is the perfect time to make sure levels are adequate to keep your engine cool and running smoothly.
- Make sure tires are properly inflated – Check your tire pressure at least once a month during the summer. Check your owner’s manual to find out the optimal tire pressure for both the front and rear tires on your vehicle, and don’t forget to check your spare tire’s air pressure level, too.
Keep Yourself and Your Passengers Safe
Create an emergency safety kitYour summer emergency safety kit could be a lifesaver. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration suggests several items to keep in your kit in case you get stranded on the side of the road, including:
- Cell phone charger and portable external battery pack
- First aid kit
- Flares or caution flags
- Tire pressure gauge
- Tire jack
- Basic repair tools
- Duct tape
- Nonperishable food, drinking water, and medicines
- Jumper cables
Use your air conditionerWhen it’s 90 degrees outside, you probably don’t need a reminder to turn on your air conditioner, but it’s worth emphasizing the importance of staying cool while driving in extreme heat. Air conditioners help keep drivers alert, as driving for prolonged periods in extreme heat causes drowsiness. Children, older passengers, and pets are also more vulnerable to high temperatures, so it’s important to think about your passenger’s comfort level in addition to your own and watch for signs of heat-induced illness. Symptoms of heat stroke include:
- Rapid breathing
- Rapid heartbeat
- Flushed skin
- Confusion or irritability
Choose highways over secondary streetsSecondary streets are more likely to “fail” during the summer months. Smaller roads can easily buckle, warp, or crack, which means they’re also more likely to cause damage to your vehicle. Highways are typically better maintained and capable of withstanding heavier traffic. Water drainage is also less of an issue on larger roadways than smaller ones. So, when you have a choice, opt for highways and interstates.
Follow child safety practices
- No matter the time of year, always double check the size, fit, and effectiveness of your child safety seats before driving somewhere with your child.
- Be aware that children are also more likely to play outside during the summer, so always be on the lookout for young pedestrians while driving.
- One of the most important things to remember during the hottest months of the year is how quickly the inside your vehicle becomes. On a hot summer day, a vehicle’s dashboard can reach up to 160 degrees in about an hour. And within just a few minutes without AC, the interior of a vehicle can reach temperatures that pose a major health risk to occupants, especially children.