Summer is in full bloom. Most days, the skies are warm, sunny and clear. It’s easy to forget that the roads can be every bit as deadly in the summer sun as in a winter snowstorm.

Drivers can get into accidents at any time, and the Missouri State Highway Patrol (MSHP) recently reminded us of the fact by releasing the 4th of July holiday weekend. Over the long weekend, troopers reported to 376 crashes and dealt with 139 injuries. Twelve people died.

No better time than now to practice defensive driving

According to the MSHP, Missouri’s drivers get into more accidents in the summer than during any other season. That means there’s no better time than now to start driving defensively.

Depending on your insurance policy, you may be able to get a discount for completing a defensive driving course. But you don’t need to complete a course to practice defensive driving. You just need to think and act differently. According to the Missouri Driver Guide, defensive driving features three key behaviors:

  • Keep your eyes on the road: Driving safely demands your focus. And you can’t just stare ahead. You need to look farther down the road and check your mirrors. You want to get a clear picture of the road and traffic all around you. When you scan the road, you’ll see the cars, and you’ll see traffic patterns. Drivers swerving in and out of lanes. Blinkers signaling endlessly. Trucks tailgating other vehicles. These are every bit as much a part of your journey as the road itself.
  • Expect other drivers to make mistakes: After you start noticing other drivers’ erratic behavior, what do you do about it? You don’t expect them to stay in their lanes or to signal their turns. You expect they might suddenly pull into your lane or come to a screeching halt after crashing into the car ahead of them. And you need to have an escape plan. Give yourself space. Think about where your car can go if the other drivers move into your space.
  • Be careful near traffic signs and signals: How many times have you seen drivers hit the gas pedal to race through a yellow light? They’re not supposed to accelerate at the caution, but they do. And they don’t always make it. When your light turns green, make sure you see the cross traffic has stopped before you start through the intersection.

Finally, it’s important to remember that there’s always a chance you’ll get into an accident. Driving defensively might lower those chances, but it can’t get rid of them completely. You can watch out for other drivers. You can try to avoid them. But you can’t control them.

Make the most of your summer

For many of us, summer means warm weather and outdoor activities. But every day brings new reports of traffic accidents, injuries and fatalities. So we have to drive carefully. If we focus on the road and practice defensive driving, we improve our chances of staying safe and having fun through the summer months.