Auto fatalities rise in the summer, safety council says

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    By Fiona Ricker

    Summertime means hot weather, cool pools, family picnics and more deaths in automobile crashes than in any other season.

    For this reason, the Utah Safety Council, in conjunction with the National Safety Council, has designated June 25-July 4 as Driving Safety Week.

    “People simply drive more in the summer months; with more cars out on the road, there are more opportunities to crash into a neighboring vehicle,” said Captain Verdi White with the Utah Department of Public Safety.

    In 1999, about 40,000 Americans were killed and 2.2 million suffered disabling injuries in motor vehicle crashes.

    Fatal crashes reached their peak in July, with 3,950 deaths in the United States.

    Families need to be more careful while traveling, said Robert Parenti, president of the Utah Safety Council.

    “Given the statistics for summer driving deaths, drivers need to take extra steps to protect their families on the road this summer,” Parenti said.

    According to the Utah Safety Council, 359 people in Utah were killed in automobile accidents in 1999, with 46 deaths occurring in July, the highest number in any month.

    Along with the greater number of vehicles on the road, people tend to travel at higher speeds in the summer, White said.

    This naturally leads to more damage inflicted.

    The pleasant summer weather also contributes to the fatality rate.

    During the winter, the road surface is usually more slick. Vehicles slide more after impact.

    “On a dry surface, tires grip. The car takes more of the force,” White said.

    The Utah Safety Council cautions travelers to buckle up. Safety belts can reduce a driver’s chance of fatal injury by 50 percent.

    Child safety seats, when used correctly, are 71 percent effective in reducing fatalities.

    “Every child should be properly buckled, and in the back seat, every time they get in the car,” Parenti said.

    Other tips include:

    *Drive at the speed limit. Speeding is a primary factor in nearly a third of all crash deaths. The chance of fatal injury doubles with each 10 miles of speed over 50 mph the vehicle is traveling.

    *Prepare your vehicle for the road.

    *For longer trips, allow enough travel time for frequent breaks. Drowsiness can reduce reaction time.

    *Drive defensively and friendly.

    *Follow the rules of the road.

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