It’s time to shift into summer driving mode.
Memorial Day weekend marks the official start of summer.
And with all that summer fun comes an enhanced danger on the roads, as people drive home from holiday parties after drinking alcohol, as motorcyclists take to the streets, as people hop on their bicycles and pull on their walking shoes to enjoy the weather, and as more drivers crowd the roads on their way to summer destinations.
This year, AAA predicts that more than 39.3 million people will be traveling more than 50 miles from home this weekend. Memorial Day weekend is also traditionally one of the highest periods for motor vehicle fatalities.
This time of year, we all have to be particularly vigilant when we’re on the road, protecting ourselves from drunk and erratic drivers and looking out for others, particularly motorcyclists, bicyclists and pedestrians.
When you see someone pulled over on the side of the road — such as an officer talking to a driver, a tow truck towing a vehicle, or someone changing a flat tire — move over a lane when it’s safe in order to protect that person from being struck by your car.
If you’ve had too much to drink, call for a ride. The STOP-DWI Foundation has created a free smart phone app called “Have a Plan” that helps users find safe rides home. Access it at www.stopdwi.org/mobileapp or at your app store.
And put down the damn cell phones. Every text can wait until you can safely pull over.
For motorcyclists, summer is your best season and potentially your worst. Whether you like it or not, drivers are not always paying attention and don’t always react as quickly as they should to motorcycles driving in and around them.
Take steps to protect yourselves as much as possible. That means not driving erratically or surprising drivers by weaving in and out of traffic, not turning abruptly in front of drivers in anticipation that they’ll see you, staying in your lane, and keeping a respectful distance from other vehicles. The life you save might be your own.
For those who need extra incentive not to drink and drive, police will be out in force through Monday and at various times throughout the summer looking for drunk drivers.
By the way, the penalty for a first-time DWI is a fine of up to $1,000, suspension of license and a possible year in jail. That doesn’t count your court costs, lawyer fees and other effects on your life.
State Police and local departments also will be checking to make sure drivers are wearing their seat belts and that children are properly secured in car seats and seat belts.
During last year’s two-week effort, police issued more than 28,000 tickets for adult and child safety restraint violations. In New York, National Highway Transportation Safety Administration estimates that seat belts saved 443 lives in 2015 and another seven children under age 5 were saved by car seats.
All front seat occupants must be wearing a seatbelt, regardless of age, and all rear seat passengers under age 16 must be properly secured — older kids by a seat belt and younger kids by an age-appropriate car seat or booster.
This is the time of year when we have the most fun, but also when we’re potentially in the most danger when we’re out on the roads.
Be on special lookout for yourself and others to make sure we all get home safe.