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  • Ren Gudino

Heated Roads - Heated Drivers

Maggie Smith said it best,

“There are two things in the world I can't abide: it's heat and heathens” (Miss Bowers, Death on the Nile)

and if you’re planning on taking a trip this summer, you’ll probably experience both on the interstate. Increased temperatures result in more accidents, studies say. This is partially because of the effect extreme heat has on asphalt and partially because of the effect it has on humans.

First, let’s talk about the things you can’t control: buckling. Also known as “thermal expansion,” this is when pavement has cracked, moisture has seeped in, and temperatures of 90 degrees cause the roads to warp or “buckle.” Concrete in roads expands in heat and contracts due to cold. This alone can weaken roads—add extensive traffic, heavy rainfall, or extreme weather conditions into the mix and most roads will start to develop cracks. These cracks provide an opening for moisture whenever humidity fluctuates or there’s rain. When roads buckle, accidents can happen.

However you can avoid these accidents or greatly decrease damage by avoiding distractions while driving, making sure you are rested and alert, aware of your surroundings and keep an eye on the road ahead. This should be simple enough to follow, that is, unless you’re experiencing overheating or heat exhaustion.

According to Scientific American, heat alone can impair the best driver.

“Dehydration, drowsiness and heat-related mood disruptions can increase impulsiveness and decrease cognitive performance—serious concerns for anyone behind the wheel.”

This could even be why accidents increase over the summer, or you at least start to notice just how reckless people can be on the road. Cars function like a greenhouse and without air conditioning, can reach temperatures surpassing the outdoors by 30 degrees! (This is also your friendly reminder to never leave children or animals in a car.) In a study where the internal car temperature reached 148 degrees, the air conditioning was left on for 30 minutes, only decreasing the internal temperature to 94. While a huge improvement, it might not be enough to prevent heat stroke or heat exhaustion, especially if you’re sensitive to temperatures or are taking medication that increases your sensitivity to heat.

Even though you may not be able to prevent road buckling or avoid it, you can make sure that you are at your best when driving. Stay hydrated, make sure your vehicle is in top condition, and try to be as rested as possible to prepare for heat-related drowsiness. We’ll be the ones marking the way with every sign!

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