10 Ways To Drive Safely Through Heat Waves This Summer

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It’s important to follow safe driving tips during summer since the season brings longer periods of daylight, family vacations and inexperienced teen drivers eager to get out of the house. These factors encourage more drivers to get on the road, which means summer also tends to bring a high rate of car accidents. In addition, extreme heat during the summer months can put a strain on vehicles and sometimes lead to improper functioning.

Keep reading to learn 10 tips for driving in summer and making sure your car is performing its best in spite of the heat.

Key Takeaways

  • Hot weather can negatively affect the function of a car’s fluids, fuel, battery and tires.
  • Car accidents are most common during summer and fall, on weekends and in the late afternoon and evening.
  • You can mitigate the negative impacts of a heat wave on your car by checking the weather, timing your long road trips appropriately and making sure the parts of your vehicle are in good condition before a long-distance drive.
  • Important hot weather driving tips for yourself include wearing sunglasses, bringing a cooler, keeping an emergency kit in your vehicle, maintaining a cool temperature inside your car, sticking to major expressways and practicing safe driving behaviors.
  • Your car insurance should cover you anywhere in the United States and Canada but likely won’t cover you in Mexico.

How To Prepare When Driving in Summer Heat

If you’re planning a summer road trip, it’s important to think strategically due to the negative effects that heat can have on your car. For example, hot temperatures can make fluids evaporate, hinder fuel circulation and worsen tire pressure and battery efficiency.[1] As a result, it’s helpful to follow these 10 essential summer driving tips to keep yourself and your family members safe on the road.

1. Watch the Weather Forecast

Check the weather before you head out for your vacation and, if possible, look ahead at the forecast and try to plan on leaving on a day when the temperature is a bit cooler. In addition, be sure to watch out for rainstorms and other adverse weather conditions that could impact your ability to drive safely.

2. Keep Up With Regular Car Maintenance

Since your car already has to work a bit harder when you’re driving in hot weather, you should check your fluid levels and make sure your car is in good condition before traveling a long distance in the summer.

This includes inspecting your belts and hoses, tires, battery, lights and brakes and having them repaired or replaced if necessary.

In particular, it’s crucial to make sure your car has enough coolant since this fluid can help keep your engine at a consistent temperature. Without enough coolant, your engine could overheat and cause a mechanical breakdown.

3. Time Your Trips

Think about the time of day and the date whenever you hit the road so you can maximize the odds of a safe trip. For example, it’s generally cooler in the early morning and at night, so your car might perform better if you try to do most of your traveling during these times. These times are also safer since fatal crashes are more common during the late afternoon and evening.[2]

You may also want to travel on weekdays since car accidents are more frequent on weekends. Pay attention to the date as well; a 2017 study found that Independence Day was the deadliest day of the year for drivers, meaning you may want to take extra precautions if you need to drive on this holiday.[2]

4. Keep an Emergency Kit in Your Car

It can be helpful to keep an emergency kit in your vehicle in case it experiences an internal failure and you’re left stranded on the side of the road. Some of the basic items that may be worth storing in your emergency kit include the following:[3]

  • Jumper cables
  • Flashlight and batteries
  • Drinking water and non-perishable foods
  • First aid kit
  • Automotive fuses
  • Tools
  • Duct tape

5. Wear Sunglasses

Depending on the position of the sun while you’re driving, you may need to wear sunglasses in order to keep sunlight out of your eyes and make sure you can see properly. In particular, polarized sunglasses are designed to minimize glare from lights that could otherwise obstruct your vision.

6. Bring a Cooler

When you travel for a long distance, you should bring a cooler to store bottled water and any other cold drinks you might want during the trip. Most people need to drink four to six cups of water a day and this number can be higher when it’s hot outside.[4] As a result, it’s important to prepare a cooler so you can stay hydrated if you plan on spending most of the day on the road.

7. Keep Your Interior Cool

With how hot it can get in a car during the summer, you should make sure that your car’s air conditioning system is working properly so you can keep the interior of the vehicle at a comfortable temperature while you drive. In addition, you can put up windshield sunshades and roll your car windows down whenever your car is parked to help keep the interior from getting too hot.

8. Stay on the Highways When Possible

Knowing which roads are more dangerous than others can help you map out the best path to your destination, with interstates typically being your safest option. Traffic fatalities are more likely to happen on rural roads than on urban roads.[5] Meanwhile, car accidents are more likely to happen on city streets than on highways, although highway crashes do tend to be more deadly.[6]

In addition, accidents are more common during summer and fall than during the other seasons.[2] Due to the high risk associated with driving during the summer months, sticking to expressways as much as possible will generally lower the odds that you will get into a collision.

9. Ensure Your Insurance Policy Covers Long-Distance Trips

Another step you can take before going on a summer vacation is to make sure your car insurance will cover you throughout your entire trip.

If you have an American auto insurance policy, then your coverage should follow you during a short-term trip anywhere in the United States.

Most American policies will cover you if you visit Canada as well.[7] However, American policies generally don’t extend coverage to Mexico, which means you may need to purchase Mexican tourist auto insurance if you plan on taking a road trip to Mexico.[8]

10. Practice Safe Driving Habits

Perhaps the best summer driving safety tip is to follow driving laws and practice safe driving habits. For example, driving the speed limit will help you to keep a safe distance from other vehicles and avoid getting into a car accident with other drivers.

Similarly, you should avoid distracted driving so that you will notice when there is a traffic jam up ahead and slow down rather than accidentally rear-ending another vehicle. If necessary, be sure to take frequent breaks at rest stops or restaurants so that you can stay alert whenever you’re on the road. Rest areas also give you the opportunity to spend some time outside of a hot car, especially if your child’s body temperature rises.

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Should I drive if it’s over 100 degrees outside?

You can drive if it’s over 100 degrees outside but keep in mind that warm weather can negatively impact your car’s ability to function.[1] As a result, it’s best to drive at a time when it’s cooler if possible.

Which states should I avoid driving through this summer?

California, Texas and Florida had the highest number of fatal crashes from June to August in 2021. These three states each had more than 800 traffic fatalities in that time frame while no other state had more than 420.[9]

Do I need to update my insurance when traveling out of state?

You most likely do not need to update your insurance for a temporary visit to a different state or Canada but you will probably need to purchase extra tourist auto insurance if you take a trip to Mexico.[7][8]

Do I need AC to stay cool in my car?

If your AC isn’t working, you can still keep your car cool in the summer by rolling your windows down to improve air circulation, parking in shaded areas when you aren’t driving, staying hydrated and using a cooling seat cover or portable fan.


  1. AAA. “Can the Heat Affect Your Car?” Accessed July 18, 2023.
  2. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. “On the Road Again: Higher Driver Death Rate is a Downside of Economic Recovery,” Page 6. Accessed July 18, 2023.
  3. California Highway Patrol. “Roadside Emergency Kit.” Accessed July 18, 2023.
  4. Harvard Health Publishing. “How Much Water Should I Drink a Day?” Accessed July 18, 2023.
  5. Governors Highway Safety Association. “Rural Roads Are Disproportionately Deadly, New GHSA Study Finds.” Accessed July 18, 2023.
  6. Wawanesa Insurance. “Driving on Roads or Highways: Which Is Most Dangerous?” Accessed July 18, 2023.
  7. Experian. “Does U.S. Car Insurance Cover You in Canada?” Accessed July 18, 2023.
  8. Experian. “Does My Car Insurance Cover Me in Mexico?” Accessed July 18, 2023.
  9. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. “Fatality and Injury Reporting System Tool (FIRST).” Accessed July 18, 2023.

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