This isn’t an article about how to stave-off road rage (but we have covered that). Instead, we want you to keep your cool while driving in a more literal sense. BC is in the midst of its first official heat wave of the summer, and meteorologists predict that we’re in for a hot and dry couple of months ahead. The trend of longer and hotter summer seasons in the province appears to be a mainstay due to climate change. This shift is asking us all to rethink a road safety threat that was once relegated to our neighbors down south – or at least the BC Southern Interior, where afternoon summer temperatures land in the 30 to 40°C range. An important study recently showed that even moderate heat stress has a negative impact on driver vigilance. At just 27ºC, the overall proportion of missed driver signals was 50 percent higher and response times were 22 percent longer than they were at 21ºC.
In the city, heat stress isn’t much of an issue for when you’ve got the A/C on-high and you can hop in and out of establishments when running your errands. But when on the Trans Canada Highway and the other roads that connect BC roads and towns, the risk increases. Not only must you trust that your air conditioner will function without the slightest hiccup (take note EV drivers) you will make stops along the way that expose you to glaring sun and heat. With provincial and interprovincial travel opening up to BC residents, the highways are open wide this summer. In response, Park Insurance is here to deliver your guide to mitigating the risk of heat stress on the road.
6 Tips to Reducing the Risk of Heat Stress on Your BC Road Trip This Hot and Dry Summer
1. Know the Signs
There is a difference between discomfort from heat, and outright cause for concern. Before you hit the road, make sure you know the warning signs of heat stress, which include the following:
- Notable increase in heart rate
- Shallow breathing
- Weak or rapid pulse
- Cool, pale, clammy skin
- Excessive (or uncharacteristic for you) sweating
- Weakness and fatigue
- Headache and nausea
- Muscle cramps
Given that all of the above symptoms will impair driving, they can directly lead to an accident. Thus, it is extremely important that you recognize all of the signs of heat stress, and act right away. Keep reading.
2. Keep the Interior Temperature Low (unless EV?)
Keep the AC on during warm days. If your vehicle’s AC is on the fritz, have it fixed before your next extended commute. Some people dislike or are even sensitive to AC, so when the outside air temperature is lower (at higher elevations) during your trip, feel free to switch it off and crack the window to fill the car with cool and natural air.
There is one modern word of caution about using AC. Electric vehicle (EV) drivers may be at a greater risk of heat stress than those who drive traditional vehicles. As alluded to above, air conditioning is a big deal in an EV. Every bit of energy used to power the AC for an EV has a noticeable impact on range. For this reason EV drivers typically limit their use of AC. After all, there is no greater risk of heat stress than being stranded on a BC highway without power. With BC having more registered EV drivers in ALL of North America, the risk of heat stress must be taken very seriously. If you’re an EV driver, view our guide to reducing EV range anxiety and follow the rest of the tips along with everyone else.
3. Stay Hydrated
Some people avoid drinking water before and during a long drive so that they don’t have to pull over for restroom pit stops, but this little inconvenience pales in comparison to the setbacks of heat stress. Keep a 1 litre bottle of water on hand for every 2 hours on the road, and keep a case of bottled water in the trunk for emergencies. It’s also a good idea to stick to snacks that provide hydration, such as fruits with ample water content, including cucumber slices, celery sticks, strawberries, and watermelon wedges. Avoid anything that can cause dehydration, such as caffeinated beverages (coffee, tea, energy drinks, etc.) and high sodium snacks, which will only increase your need for water.
4. Dress to Keep Cool
Keep it fashion-simple on your hot weather road trip or commute. Wear light and loose fitting fabric, with easy on/off layers (a hoodie, or cardigan) nearby for when the AC becomes a bit much to bear, or when traversing over those higher elevations.
5. Time Your Drive with the Position of the Sun
When possible, plan your long drives around optimal times of the day, when the sun is lower and temperature is cooler. For example, if you’re driving from Vancouver to Kelowna this late spring or summer, leave at 6 AM to beat the afternoon heat that beats down as you turn from the BC-5 N to BC-97 C. If taking a cross country or continent trip, plan your recreational and kitschy attraction stops for the midpoint of the days, so that you’re logging the bulk of your miles in the morning or evening.
6. Be Mindful of Your Passengers, Especially Children
The same rules above apply to your passengers. They need to be kept safe from heat stress too, but this is especially true for children. Extreme heat affects children more quickly and dramatically than adults because of their size. Their core temperature can increase up to five times faster than that of an adult. When the body’s core temperature reaches 40.5ºC (105º F), heatstroke occurs. So if you’re starting to feel uncomfortable on your drive, it may already be too late to stave off heat stress for your small children. Don’t let it get to that point. Make sure you do all that you can to create a cool interior environment, and ensure that they follow the same guidelines listed above, while you pull over to check on them often throughout extended trips.
We would also like to remind you to have your automobile insurance updated before the summer season arrives. A lot can happen at this time of the year and you want to make sure you hedge your risk. Contact Park Insurance right way to speak with an independent insurance broker about your needs.