Millions of Americans take vacations every year - approximately one-third of all American families, according to AAA. Summer is the height of vacation season, with some folks making an annual tradition of taking road trips to Washington state. Although the risk of a car accident exists whether you're traveling 2 miles or 2,000 miles, the hazards that arise on longer trips are unique and deserve careful consideration.
Tourism in Washington state has climbed steadily in recent years, with the Washington Tourism Alliance reporting total overnight per-person trips increased by more than 3 percent from 2014 to 2015. Travel and tourism supports approximately 171,000 jobs in this state, and most of the people arriving are doing so by vehicle. AAA reports lower gas prices are likely to spur even more travelers this year. Washington, as one of the few states that legalizes marijuana use and possession for recreation, is likely to see an additional tourism boost for this reason, and also perhaps some greater road hazards for this very same reason.
The Washington Department of Transportation reports that a disproportionate number of fatal crashes occur between July and September. The good news is Washington State was ranked No. 6 overall for the best states to take a road trip. According to an analysis by WalletHub, driving and lodging costs in Washington were a bit higher than most, but in terms of road conditions and safety, we ranked No. 12. For fun and scenic attractions, we ranked No. 4.
Summer Road Trip Hazards
Summer road trips can be a blast - but they are also often long, tedious and too frequently, dangerous.
Some of the common hazards we see arise on longer trips include:
- Drowsy driving. The Washington State Highway Patrol reports that between 2012 and 2015, there were more than 4,700 collisions investigated wherein the driver either fell asleep, was fatigued or both behind the wheel of a car. Those who drive tired have slower reaction times, judgment, vision, awareness of surroundings, and decision-making skills. Anyone can be a bit drowsy day-to-day, but drivers on long road trips are at high risk of falling asleep at the wheel. It's imperative that you take an adequate number of breaks and rests if you're taking a long trip. Work it into your travel plans.
- Impaired drivers. This is a problem throughout the year and no matter where you go, but those at vacation destinations are often more likely to drink alcohol. Here in Washington, we also have added concerns about marijuana-impaired drivers, many of whom may be tourists who flock to the state for purposes of indulging. RCW 46.61.502 prohibits driving under the influence of intoxicating liquor, marijuana or any drug while driving a vehicle. Here, a person with a THC concentration of 5.00 or higher within two hours of driving is deemed under the influence.
- Distracted drivers. RCW 46.61.668 prohibits the use of electronic wireless communication devices to send text messages to others while driving. Unfortunately, this doesn't stop some drivers. It can be especially tempting when you're on a long trip, and want to change the music podcast or need to check the GPS. But your eyes need to be on the road at all times. Have a passenger help, or pull over if you must.
- Defective vehicles. Vehicle recalls have hit record numbers in recent years. It wasn't until June 2016 that rental car companies became obligated by law to repair recalled cars before they were rented out. Used cars, however, can still be sold under recall, so long as the buyer is informed. Most certified pre-owned programs include checking for an performing any open recall when it comes to used cars, but non-manufacturer certification and inspection programs may not have this same protection, so it's buyer beware.
If you are injured in a Spokane car accident, our injury lawyers can help.