FLHSMV: Tips to drive safe, stay cool during summer months

Traffic, cars in Florida
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As the temperatures rise and summer arrives in the Sunshine State, The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV), our division of the Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) and our public safety partners are committed to promoting safe and enjoyable travel experiences for all Florida citizens and visitors.

With additional vehicles on the road, drivers face an increased risk, especially those unfamiliar with Florida’s weather or road conditions. It is essential that anyone traveling across the state familiarizes themselves with their route and ensures that their vehicle is in good condition as they begin their journey.

“Governor DeSantis recently announced that Florida remains the No. 1 state for domestic tourism and No. 2 for international tourism. Florida continues to top the nation as a popular tourist destination and a wonderful place to live,” said Executive Director Dave Kerner in a press release. “Whether visiting or living here, in most cases, a road or highway will lead you to your destination. Before you travel, make sure that your vehicle is ready and that you are prepared. Prioritize safe driving and never drive if you are impaired. Arrive alive this summer.”

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Florida summers are beautiful but can be subject to humidity, thunderstorms and inclement weather. To ensure safety before you hit the road, here are a few things you can check on your vehicle to prepare for any adverse weather or road conditions.

Vehicle Maintenance:

  • CHECK YOUR WINDSHIELD WIPERS—If your wiper blades do not clear rain or debris and instead smear them, you should replace them. Functional blades should provide a clear windshield.
  • HEADLIGHTS- Sun damage and age can cause headlights to turn yellow and cloudy. Cloudy headlights can limit your ability to see and be seen on the road. If you have an older vehicle, consider changing the headlight casing or using restorative cleaners to improve visibility.
  • TIRE PRESSURE– Before relying on your vehicle to carry friends, family, and loved ones, it is critical that you check the tire pressure to ensure the tires can sustain the extra load associated with luggage or other travel necessities.
  • TIRE TREAD- Tire tread provides the gripping action and traction that prevents your car or truck from slipping and sliding, especially when the road is icy or wet. Tires are unsafe and should be replaced when the tread is worn down to 2/32 of an inch.
  • TEMPERATURE—Sustained high temperatures (for example, driving long distances in hot weather) can cause a tire to deteriorate, leading to blowouts and tread separation, leading to an unsafe vehicle that is dangerous to drive.

In addition to vehicle maintenance, drivers must know how to respond to severe or inclement weather. 

Driving in Inclement Weather:

Driving in severe weather conditions can significantly increase the potential for a dangerous situation. Sometimes, drivers’ best decision is to stay put until the storm passes. If driving is the only option, buckle up and follow these rules to ensure safety:

  • TURN LIGHTS AND WIPERS ON. Florida law requires that headlights must be on if a vehicle’s wipers are used. Headlights should be clean and clear to ensure visibility, and wipers should be replaced at least once a year.
  • SLOW DOWN. Keep a safe stopping distance between vehicles and avoid passing or changing lanes. Wet pavement can result in skidding and hydroplaning. Be patient and stay alert. Use the right edge of the road or painted road markings as a guide.
  • TURN AROUND; DON’T DROWN. Stay away from flooded areas. The roadway area beneath the water may be washed out or concealed by debris or power lines.
  • BE CAUTIOUS OF HIGH WINDS. Windy conditions are a driving risk to all vehicles, particularly high-profile vehicles such as buses and trucks. Use extra caution around vehicles carrying cargo. Strong wind can occur anywhere, but it is common in wide open spaces, including bridges and highway overpasses. Keep a firm grip on the steering wheel and give large vehicles extra room to maneuver.
  • BE PREPARED FOR INOPERABLE TRAFFIC LIGHTS. Traffic lights are designed to keep traffic moving and prevent collisions; however, non-working or missing lights can confuse drivers. If a law enforcement officer is present, follow their directions. Otherwise, treat the intersection as if it were a four-way stop sign. If traffic lights are flashing red, come to a complete stop and treat the intersection as a four-way stop. If lights are flashing yellow, proceed with caution and be prepared to yield to oncoming traffic.
  • PULL OVER- Always remember, if inclement weather makes you feel unsafe, overwhelmed, or nervous, when it is safe to do so, find a place to pull over and wait for the weather to pass. If you are on the side of the road, ensure that your hazard signals are on.

Heat Stroke Awareness and Prevention

Florida’s heat and humidity can be enjoyable at the beach but can be dangerous in parked vehicles. In just 10 minutes, the temperature inside a vehicle can increase by 20 degrees. Children’s body temperatures can rise three to five times faster than adults, and heat stroke can occur in a closed vehicle even when the outside temperature is as low as 57 degrees. It is important to note that this applies to pets as well.

In Florida, according to section 768.139 of the Florida Statutes, it is legal to rescue a vulnerable person or domestic animal from a motor vehicle. These good Samaritans may have immunity to damage to the motor vehicle if: 

  • The vehicle is locked, and there is no other reasonable way for the person or animal to get out.
  • Has reasonable belief based upon the circumstances that entry is necessary because the person or animal is in imminent danger.
  • Notify law enforcement or call 911 before or immediately after entering the vehicle.
  • Uses no more force than is necessary; and
  • Remains with the person or animal until law enforcement or another first responder arrives.

Florida law states that anyone responsible for a child younger than six years of age must not leave the child unattended or unsupervised in a motor vehicle for a period over 15 minutes or for any time that endangers the child or causes distress.  A violation of this law is a second-degree misdemeanor and can result in a fine of up to $500. Violations that cause great bodily harm or permanent damage to a child are considered a third-degree felony. 

To prevent the potential for vehicular heatstroke:

  • NEVER LEAVE CHILDREN, VULNERABLE ADULTS, OR PETS UNATTENDED IN A VEHICLE – even for a short period of time.
  • CALL 911. Take immediate action If you see a child, vulnerable adult, or pet locked in a hot car.
  • ALWAYS check the back seat before leaving and locking your vehicle.

Traveling with your pet:

Florida is a beautiful destination for both humans and pets to live and visit. Many tourists and residents love to travel with their pets. If you plan on em-bark-ing on a road trip adventure with your furry companion, you can take a few steps to ensure their safety during the journey. Never put your pet in the front seat of a vehicle. If your vehicle is involved in a crash, the airbags in the front seat could injure your pet.

  • SECURE YOUR PET in a crate or by using a safety harness. Pets that are not secure risk injury if in a crash, in addition to the potential for causing a distraction to the driver.
  • NEVER LET YOUR DOG PUT ITS HEAD OUT OF THE CAR WINDOW. Although letting your dog stick its head out of the car window may be tempting, it is not safe. Your pet could be hit by debris on the road or from other vehicles. Additionally, there is a risk of injury due to sudden braking, sharp turns, or accidents.

Dangerous Driving Behaviors:

Florida is just like any other state where unsafe and dangerous driving behaviors such as driving impaired, speeding, or not buckling your seatbelt can lead to serious consequences. Whether you are a visitor or a resident, it is crucial to remember that taking a few simple actions can make a huge difference and even save a life.

  • DRIVING UNDER THE INFLUENCE IS NEVER ACCEPTABLE. The risk of losing a life is not worth any excuse.
  • IMPAIRMENT IS BLACK OR WHITE; you are either impaired or not. If you have consumed alcohol, drugs, or any mind-altering prescription drugs, you are impaired and should not be driving. Doing so puts yourself, your passengers, and others on the road at risk of injury or even death.
  • SPEED is one of the most common traffic violations issued by law enforcement across the country. In Florida, the speed limit on any highway, interstate, or road is never more than 70 mph. Speeding is the cause of many accidents resulting in injury or death; it is reckless driving and endangers everyone.
  • BUCKLE UP. Another fact is that if you are involved in a collision while unrestrained, you are more likely to be injured or killed. There is no reason not to buckle up; it is an easy step to ensure your safety.
  • DRIVE IN THE “RIGHT” LANE. The left lane is for passing; unless doing so, you should stay in the right lane.

This summer, if you’re planning to hit the road, make sure to prioritize safety by taking necessary precautions, making responsible decisions, and preparing your vehicle and pets for travel. The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) and our campaign partners are committed to ensuring that everyone enjoys a safe and pleasant travel experience across the state. To learn more about Safe Summer Travel, please visit our campaign webpage.

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