Driving Safety Home: Prepare for high temperatures to stay safe on the road

By Dallas Hammit / ADOT Deputy Director for Transportation

Crews work building freeway sound walls in the summer heat

While no one can control Arizona’s soaring summertime temperatures, each of us can take precautions to help ensure we’ll stay safe in the extreme heat.

Before you travel, it is important that you, your passengers and your vehicle are prepared for the trip ahead. It’s also wise to plan for the unexpected because you never know when a crash on a highway could cause a long traffic backup or even a vehicle breakdown could have you stranded for hours.

I know many drivers pack an emergency kit during the winter months. When they’re headed into snowy territory, they make sure to include gloves, blankets, ice scrapers and a bag of sand in case their vehicle gets stuck in the snow. A summer driving kit is just as vital and I would encourage you to pack one and keep it in your vehicle. Be sure it contains things like:

  • extra water – enough for the driver, passengers and pets. You may also want to consider taking a cooler to keep extra drinking water cold.
  • a fully charged cell phone and phone charger.
  • an umbrella for shade.
  • hats, sunglasses, sunscreen and loose-fitting cotton clothing to provide protection from sunburn.
  • a first-aid kit and any necessary prescribed medication(s) and pain relievers.
  • healthy snacks and a good road map that can provide possible alternate routes.
  • safety gear, including a flashlight with extra batteries, safety flares, extra radiator water, a travel tool kit and battery cables.

There’s another item you might want to include and it’s one that most drivers might not think to carry – a reflective vest. It’s a good idea to have one and it can help ensure you are seen by other motorists if you are ever standing on the side of the road because of a breakdown or crash. I recently visited Germany and learned there is actually a law in place requiring all vehicles to have a reflective vest on board. Drivers there must wear that vest when they exit their vehicle and can face a fine if they don’t have one.

Please visit ADOT’s extreme heat web page for more information and tips. There you’ll discover ways to prep your vehicle for a trip in the heat, including:

  • Fill your fuel tank and try to keep it at three-quarters full. Running out of gas in a remote location is dangerous in extreme heat
  • Heat can take a toll on a vehicle’s battery. Consider having yours checked, especially if it’s more than three years old
  • Check engine coolant levels and add coolant if necessary. Never remove your vehicle’s radiator cap when the engine is hot
  • Check engine belts and fluids (motor oil, transmission fluid, brake fluid and power-steering fluid)
  • Tire condition is important to monitor. Traveling with under- or overinflated tires on hot pavement can lead to a blowout. Make sure your tire pressure is at the vehicle manufacturer’s recommended level. Remember to check the spare tire, too
  • You’ll also want to check your windshield wiper blades and replace them if necessary, so they’ll work if you encounter monsoon weather
  • Make sure your vehicle’s air conditioning system is functioning properly
  • Before you hit the road, you can visit az511.gov or dial 511 for updated road and weather conditions

As always, I ask that you not only review these safety recommendations yourself, but share and discuss them with your loved ones – it could make a difference.

Editor's Note: More safety messages from Dallas Hammit, ADOT's state engineer, are available at Driving Safety Home on azdot.gov.