Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Make sure you and your vehicle are ready for the heat wave

By Barbara LaBoe

Western Washington is expecting a historic heat wave this week and we want you – and your vehicle – to be prepared.
With super-high temperatures forecast, everyone is encouraged to stay hydrated and make sure
their vehicles are in good condition (Image from National Weather Service).

Temperatures are supposed to reach 100-plus by Thursday, with highs in the 90s for several days before and after. Unpleasant? Yes. Unusual? You bet. Downright sweltering? Absolutely. These temps are also tough on you, your vehicle and your commute. And nothing makes a hot, uncomfortable drive worse than sitting on the side of a sizzling roadway waiting for a tow.

So, how can you help beat the heat? We worked with our partners at the Washington State Patrol and developed the following tips for hot weather travel:
  • Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Carry extra water – both for yourself and in case your vehicle overheats. If you're bicycling, you definitely need to hydrate and avoid over-exertion. Also, be on the watch for signs your car is overheating.
  • Make sure your vehicle is in good working order. Excessive heat can stress an already struggling vehicle, which can turn a tough commute much, much worse.
  • Keep your vehicle fueled up. Air conditioning reduces gas efficiency so cranking the cold air (understandable given this heat) will mean you use more gas. Turning off the AC when you can also helps.
  • If your vehicle is a bicycle, check your bike's tire pressure and keep tires properly inflated. Don't overinflate – as temperatures rise so will the air pressure inside the tires.

If you're riding a bike during the heat wave, make sure the tires are inflated correctly.

  • Need a break? Or, need to check on an overheating vehicle? Pull into one of the safety rest areas along state roadways. Traveling a long distance? Make note of the rest areas you'll be passing.
  • Keep kids and pets safe. NEVER leave children or pets in vehicles during heat waves – not even for "just a few minutes." Temperatures rise to life-threatening levels in just minutes and can quickly lead to tragedy.
  • Consider traveling earlier in the day or later in the evening, when temperatures drop – at least a little – and roadways are less crowded.
  • Be on the lookout for more two-wheeled travelers. Sunny, warm weather means more motorcycles and bicycles on the road, so be extra alert as you travel. Leave more distance between you and a motorcycle or bicycle—3 or 4 seconds' worth. Motorcycles are much lighter than other vehicles and can stop in much shorter distances. Bicyclists may be dealing with road debris and other hazards you can't see – give them room to ride safely.
  • Motorcyclists also should be extra alert – and remember that lane splitting remains illegal in Washington state. Our friends at the Washington State Patrol are conducting motorcycle emphasis patrols this summer to remind two-wheel drivers about the state's safety laws and hopefully reduce the number of motorcycle crashes, injuries and deaths we see each summer.

With hot temperatures and dry conditions, roadside brush fires are a significant concern.

  • Stay fire safe. The heat and dry weather only increases our wildfire danger. Please remember to never throw lit cigarettes or other items out of a vehicle. Also, don't pull into a grassy field or road shoulder – the heat from your car's engine can spark a fire.
  • Whether on the road or not, keep an eye on yourself and family members for heatstroke and other heat illness warning signs. Check with your local county or city about cooling centers if you need to seek relieve. King County lists several on its summer heat blog. 
Finally, remember to breathe. Yes, this hot weather will be unpleasant, but getting worked up about it while behind the wheel doesn't help anyone. Prepare for the worst of it and please try to keep your cool despite the scorching weather so that we can all get home safely.