The holiday season brings lots of travel, even amidst the current pandemic. Although Thanksgiving saw fewer road warriors, there were still plenty of people on the road.
Are you planning a Christmas car trip to visit friends and family? Holiday travel is exciting and fun but is sometimes dangerous. If you’re hitting the road, there are some ways of making highway travel safer.
Keep reading for some great tips for highway travel to ensure your Christmas stays safe and fun.
Don’t assume it’s business as usual on the highway this holiday season. Plan out your route first, and then check ahead with state and local authorities along your route. There may be some local road restrictions.
Map out the rest stops. Due to the pandemic, stopping in a crowded restaurant shouldn’t be your go-to for bathroom breaks. When you do take breaks, always go with your kids to the restrooms and wear a mask.
It’s a good idea to give each of your kids a whistle. If you’re separated for any reason or if a child feels they’re in danger, they can blow the whistle.
Don’t rely solely on your smartphone or car’s GPS system. Get some road maps in case you end up in an area with poor cellphone service.
Pad Your Time
Give yourself extra time on the road. Arriving a little early is better than not arriving at all! If you’re running late, you’re more likely to speed and engage in other dangerous behaviors in the car.
Leaving extra time also means less stress if you hit unexpected traffic or bad weather.
Service the Car
Never leave on a long car trip without servicing the car first. The last thing you need is a breakdown a few hundred miles from home. It’s not always easy finding a reliable mechanic when you’re in a strange town.
A week or so before your trip, schedule an oil change if you need one and a checkup. A qualified mechanic checks your engine, windshield wipers, headlights, taillights, and fluid levels.
If there’s anything out of the ordinary, the mechanic will flag it and let you know. If there’s an important maintenance issue, don’t put it off until after the trip. Being stuck on the side of the road is hazardous as well as annoying.
Make sure your car has the right tires for the trip. If you live in a warm climate and you’re driving to a snowy climate, you may need different tires. Always carry a good tire pressure gauge with you as well.
Cold weather can cause under-inflation of your tires, making them unsafe if the roads are wet or snowy. Check the tire pressure when you stop to get gas.
Enroll in a Roadside Assistance Program
The car is checked out and ready to go, but it never hurts to belong to a roadside assistance program. Check with your insurance first since you may already have roadside coverage.
If you’re enrolled in a program, make sure you have any necessary identification cards and phone numbers handy.
Carry an Emergency Kit
You should always carry a car emergency kit. A few things to remember:
- Spare tire and jack
- Duct tape
- Hand warmers
- Window scraper
- A pair of water-resistant gloves
- Paper towels
- Extra windshield washer fluid
- First-aid kit
You can buy first-aid and emergency car kits in most home improvement stores. Even if you’re only driving an hour in cold weather, always have a heavy coat with you. If the car breaks down, it gets cold inside fast.
Try to fill your gas tank as soon as it’s at about the half-way point, especially if you’re traveling in cold weather. This reduces the chances of a frozen fuel line. It also keeps you from running out of gas if you’re on a long stretch between fuel stations.
Bring Old Socks
This sounds strange but ends up being useful if you’re driving in snowy weather. Upon arrival at your destination, put an old sock onto each windshield wiper.
Slipping the sock over the wipers keeps them from sticking to the windshield in cold, icy weather. This makes cleaning the windshield easier in the morning when you’re ready to go.
Get Enough Sleep
Inadequate sleep has disastrous consequences on the road, with an estimated 800 deaths per year from drowsy drivers. Lack of sleep impairs cognition and reflexes and makes you susceptible to falling asleep at the wheel.
Driving fatigued is driving impaired, and you should take it seriously. If you feel tired, switch drivers or pull off in a safe place and take a nap.
Don’t Drink or Do Drugs and Drive
This should go without saying, but don’t drink or do drugs and drive. Designate a sober driver before you go anywhere. The consequences of driving drunk or on drugs are too steep to take the risk.
Never Text and Drive
This is another obvious but important safety tip. Never text while driving. On the highway, your car covers a lot of ground in only a few seconds.
If you look down for even a few seconds, you can cause a fatal accident. It’s not worth it. If you need to answer a text, have a passenger do it or pull over in a safe place to have your conversation.
Practice defensive driving. Always leave plenty of space between you and the car ahead of you.
Be aware of large trucks on the road. If a truck veers from a lane or the driver is impaired, you don’t want to get hit.
If the worst happens, you may have a lawsuit. Learn more here.
When driving on the highway, you’ll see plenty of aggressive drivers. Don’t be one of them! Stay within the posted speed limit.
The force of a crash at 75 mph is nine times stronger than the force at 25 mph. Traveling 10 mph faster than everyone else on the road increases your chance of a fatal crash by 71%. The latest statistics show speed contributes to more than 25% of fatal accidents on the road.
Notice your surroundings. Practice the quick-check method by checking your rear-view mirror and side-mirrors regularly. Do a quick look, so you’re aware of your surroundings.
If someone is speeding up behind you, get out of their way if it’s safe. If not, keep a steady speed and wait for them to speed by. By being aware of your surroundings at all times, you’re able to avoid risks.
Wear Comfortable and Practical Clothing
If you’re settling in for a long drive, the last thing you want is uncomfortable clothes. Make sure you’re wearing loose-fitting, breathable clothing.
Take your jacket off before you start the drive. Never try and take a jacket off while you’re driving.
Avoid bulky boots and opt for comfortable sneakers or loafers for driving. You may need boots when you get out of the car if you’re driving in a snowy climate, so leave them in easy reach.
Bulky boots make it hard to feel the pedals under your feet. You also don’t want shoes or boots that might slip while driving.
This is easy to forget if you’re driving in cold weather, but it’s important. The heated air inside the car is dry, warm, and dehydrating.
If you’re warm and dehydrated, you can get sleepy. Don’t keep the heat too high and have plenty of fluids on hand. It does mean you may have to make a few more bathroom breaks, but it’s worth it to stay hydrated.
Keep some handheld snacks within easy reach. It’s better not to eat if you’re the driver, but you can grab a quick snack during the bathroom breaks.
There are a few things that come in handy that fall into the category of “stuff.” A power strip is handy, especially when you’re staying at someone’s home or a hotel. Plug it in, and you’ve got a charging station for everyone’s electronics.
Plastic bags come in handy in the car. Use zipper-type plastic bags for smelly old food when there’s no garbage can handy.
Safe Highway Travel
Highway travel has inherent dangers, but you can minimize your risks. Plan ahead and leave yourself extra time to avoid rushing, which can cause an accident.
Have a professional check your car before you go, and if possible, enroll in an emergency roadside service for added protection. Carry an emergency car kit and a first-aid kit.
Practice defensive driving with no distractions, including adequate sleep. Stay within the posted speed limits and never drive impaired.
Wear comfortable clothing and bring lots of fluids and snacks. Most of all, have a safe trip!
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