As Thanksgiving and other fall and winter holidays approach, many people leave town to visit their families. AAA Road Service estimates that 46.9 million Americans travel 50 miles or more for the Thanksgiving holiday alone. With so many people traveling at one time, the risk of an auto accident increases significantly.
If you are one of the millions of Americans planning on traveling this holiday season, start preparing now. Read on to learn how you can have a safe, fun drive this holiday season.
Before you pack your car for your trip, make sure your car’s maintenance is up to date. Take your car to a mechanic to perform any needed maintenance and inspect your car for potential problems.
Along with taking care of any crucial car maintenance, perform a quick check of your car before you leave. Flash your headlights, check your brake lights, use your windshield wipers, turn on your heating system, check your tire pressure and tire tread, and test your car battery. If everything works normally, your car is ready for your long journey.
You should always wear a seat belt when riding in the car, but you should especially do so during every stage of a long road trip. Protect yourself and your loved ones by requiring everyone in the car to buckle up. Remember, a seat belt is the best way to prevent injury or death in a car accident. Before you pull out of the driveway, buckle your seat belt and then make sure everyone else does the same.
Plan your trip route before you leave, then check traffic and weather reports the night before to make sure you can follow your planned route. Heavy traffic, road work, or other road conditions could force you to take an alternate route, so make sure you have a backup route planned before you leave.
Even if you’re using a GPS for directions, bring a paper map just in case. Your GPS can always lose its signal or run out of battery. Plan your departure time around weather conditions and peak traffic hours to ensure safe, speedy travel.
Insufficient sleep can make you drowsy while driving and increase your risk of an accident. A study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that people who slept six to seven hours before their drive were twice as likely to be in a car accident as those who slept for eight hours or more. People who slept for five hours or less were four to five times more likely to be in an accident.
Pack all of your items the day before you leave so you can get a peaceful night’s sleep and wake up feeling refreshed. Take frequent breaks to stay alert on the road, and always pull over and find a hotel or rest stop if you start to feel drowsy.
Drive the speed limit and keep a few car lengths between you and other cars. Busy roads or adverse weather can force you to slow down, so make sure you drive at an appropriate speed for the circumstances. Drive defensively-if aggressive drivers try to force you to drive faster, let them pass you. It’s better to be safe than risk getting in an accident.
You hope your car won’t break down on the road, but if it does, be prepared to stay safe until help arrives. Pack an emergency kit with an automotive toolkit, first-aid materials, flashlights, jumper cables, and sand to create traction in icy areas. Since you’re traveling during the winter, you and your family members should bring extra pairs of warm clothes, gloves, and hats to stay warm while you wait.
Have your insurance card handy when you call for assistance. Once your insurance company finds you, a representative can help you find the assistance you need to get your car back on the road.
Along with making sure you and your family travel safely, you want to keep everything back home safe while you’re away. Put all your valuables in a secure place before you leave your house. Use light timers to turn your lights on and off while you’re away to give the impression that you are home.
Don’t broadcast your trip on social media-wait to post photos until you get back. Thieves often prey on public information during the holidays to learn who’s away from home so they can break in without fear of getting caught.
Finally, before you leave for your trip, let someone you trust in the area know your itinerary. Ask a relative, friend, or neighbor to check on your house every day or so to make sure your home is safe.
These tips play an important role in your road safety and protection during this holiday season. If an accident does happen in spite of your best intentions, though, it’s not the end of the world. After an accident, seek medical attention for your injuries and talk to your local auto body shop to see what repairs your car needs. Soon enough, your car will be ready for many more holiday road trips to come.