Summer’s here and the whole family is hitting the road! Before you take off, read on for a few tips to help you make sure your trip is not only fun, but safe.
The first tip starts before you leave the driveway: make sure your car is in good working order, up to driving whatever distance you’re traveling. Make sure tires are in good shape and are properly inflated, check fluid levels, windshield wipers, lights, and turn signals, and have a mechanic look over things like belts and the air conditioner. If you’ll be driving in a hot environment, you may want to ask them if you need a higher-viscosity oil. A breakdown in a place you’re not familiar with is time-consuming, expensive, and potentially dangerous, so eliminate as much risk as you can.
Buckle up! A lack of seat belts causes thousands of injuries and deaths every year, both to the person who wasn’t wearing it and to other passengers. Never skip it.
If you’re using a GPS, program it with your destinations before you leave, or have a passenger input the data – don’t try to do it while driving. It’s also a good idea to store a local business or other public place as your home address: if your GPS is lost or stolen, you don’t want people to know where your unoccupied home is.
Pack an emergency kit to keep in the trunk. It should contain first-aid supplies, flashlight, jumper cables, flare, blankets, water, and tools for changing a tire. Make sure your cell phone is fully charged before you set out, and check your glove box for proof of insurance and your registration. Other handy things to keep in the car for a long trip include sunscreen, snacks, wet wipes and paper towels for quick clean-up, and plastic bags for storing trash or dirty laundry.
When packing the car, resist the urge to stuff everything in – make sure bags, coolers, etc. are reasonably secure and won’t fall onto kids’ heads. Store heavy items on the floor or at the bottom so they don’t become projectiles if you stop or swerve suddenly.
Make sure you’re well-rested before hitting the road; sleepy drivers are responsible for thousands of accidents every year, so if you didn’t get a good night’s sleep, let someone else take the wheel. It’s also important, both mentally and physically, to pull over for a break every few hours – it gives everyone a chance to stretch their legs, get some fresh air, and refresh.