Nothing says “summer vacation” quite like taking a road trip with the family, and this summer Americans are definitely hitting the highways.
When the freedom of the open road beckons, it’s always a good idea to take a few safety precautions–just in case. Here are a few tips so you can be prepared for the unexpected.
Tips for Drivers
Get rest. According to the Journal of Sleep Research, a tired driver can be just as impaired as a drunk driver. No matter how many miles you plan on driving this summer, be sure to get plenty of sleep every night of your trip. The NHTSA estimates that 100,000 reported accidents each year are directly related to vehicle operator sleepiness and fatigue. So if you feel yourself getting tired, pull off at a rest stop to take a break–that’s what they’re there for!
Eliminate distractions. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration says distracted driving is a major cause of accidents on America’s highways. In fact, a driver who texts while driving is 23 times more likely to be involved in a crash than one who isn’t distracted, the Administration says. Remember, when you’re driving, that’s all you should be doing.
Stay calm. One of the most important driving safety tips to keep in mind is to stay calm in situations when other drivers get aggressive or act impulsively.
Tips for Passengers
Help with non-driving tasks. Road trip preparations are as much the responsibility of passengers as they are of the driver. When you’re sitting in the passenger’s seat, offer to have change ready for tolls; serve as a navigator when needed; and keep an eye out for signs of dehydration and restlessness in any children or pets riding with you.
Take turns staying awake. Never allow your driver to be the only one awake in the car while driving. Take as many breaks as you need, and be sure to always have at least one passenger stay awake to keep the driver company.
Tips for Your Vehicle
Engine tune-up. Summer heat can be brutal on y our car. As part of your road trip preparations, get a full engine tune-up from a licensed mechanic before you take off on a long trip. Be sure to replace any drive belts that show signs of slipping or cracking.
Tires and brakes. If you’ve been driving through road salt and other corrosive winter conditions, have your tires and brakes inspected. Make sure brake pads, fluids, and tires are all in top shape. For example, if you suddenly have to slam on the brakes or swerve because the tractor-trailer in front of you blows a tire, you’ll want the best traction and stopping response your car offers.
Cooling system. Checking your radiator and all hoses for weak spots, swelling and leaks. Other than yourself, the last thing you want overheating on your road trip is your vehicle.
Battery. Don’t assume that batteries only fail in cold weather. Consumer Reports recommends that any automobile battery that’s more than 2 years old (if you live in a warm climate) or 4 years old (if you live in a colder climate) should be checked to make sure it’s putting out a full charge.
With these driving safety tips and a well-stocked emergency kit, you’re on your way to a happy, safe summer road trip. Enjoy the drive and share America’s roads with care.