Driving in itself is a risky activity. But there are certain times of the day and night when driving is either safer or more dangerous. As of 2023, there are 100 fatal accidents every day in the U.S. Fatal accident data provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) revealed that driving between 9 and 10 p.m. puts drivers at the highest risk of a deadly collision. It is safest to commute during March and most dangerous to drive during September. Driving in coastal states at night is risky. But, if you live in a central state, the afternoon commute is the riskiest time to drive. Check out these 4 ways to keep your family safe during the afternoon commute.
4 Ways to Keep Your Family Safe During the Afternoon Commute
Why Is the Afternoon Commute So Dangerous?
Contrary to widespread belief, the afternoon commute is far more dangerous than driving in the morning. Some drivers believe they may be more at risk of being in an accident because they stress about getting to work on time after dropping their kids off at school. However, studies show that the most dangerous time on the road is between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. Several factors contribute to these findings, including teenage drivers commuting from school and shift workers driving home from an all-nighter. Another prominent factor is drunk driving. Many drivers stop at bars after work, have one too many, and then choose to drive home in their altered state.
Protecting Your Family During the Afternoon Commute
If you cannot change your kids’ after-school schedules to avoid peak afternoon commute hours, follow these steps to keep your family safe while on the road.
1. Find Alternative Routes
If you do not have to drive through the most congested areas, then don’t. Even if it takes a few minutes longer to get home, try and find a less-traveled route in the afternoon. Ensure you check your navigation app for notifications about accidents and other events that might become a hazard.
Should there be no alternative routes, do your best to drive according to the speed limit while looking out for erratic drivers. Do not be tempted to drive faster or skip a stop sign to get home faster. Never try to overtake another vehicle just because you are in a hurry. Speeding is one of the main causes of fatal car accidents in the U.S., with more than 38,000 people dying on the road every year. One wrong or impulsive decision while driving can have fatal consequences for you and your family.
2. Check the Weather
If you live in a state where severe weather often disrupts traffic, you should always check the weather report for the day before heading out. According to the U.S. Department of Public Transportation, inclement weather plays a significant role in car accidents, accounting for up to 15% of fatal crashes annually. Dust storms, black ice, thunderstorms, and tornadoes can all lead to serious car accidents. If the forecast looks like it will bring dangerous weather, consider delaying or rescheduling the day’s travel, even if it means you and your kids stay home.
3. Eliminate All Distractions
Never have your phone to your ear or text while driving. Even the slightest distraction can cause a massive accident, and phones are a major distraction. If you struggle with the temptation to text and drive, put your phone in the trunk or give it to a passenger for safekeeping. Should your children be prone to arguing in the car on the way home, use the commute to ask questions or listen to fun songs to keep them occupied. Never eat, drink, or apply makeup while driving, no matter what time of day. And always ensure that you and all your passengers wear seatbelts.
4. Be Prepared for Anything
Even the best-laid plans go awry sometimes. You may drive carefully and avoid congested roads and bad weather, just for a drunk driver to T-bone your car anyway. You may turn onto a usually-empty road only to see a mile-long stretch of vehicles ahead of you. Prepare for emergencies and delays by keeping bottled water, snacks, blankets, and a first-aid kit in the car. If you have young children, keep audiobooks for games on hand so they are kept occupied during long delays.
Get Everyone to Participate in Watching Out for Potential Hazards
Driving every day is monotonous, which in itself is a distraction. Get your family (older children) to play the lookout while driving the afternoon commute. They can help you spot potential hazards and weather changes. When the afternoon light fades, turn on your fog lights and headlights, and make sure to slow down. By following these tips, everyone gets home safely.