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Thursday, May 07, 2009

Tips for Safe Summer Driving

Summer time is just around the corner and people are starting to plan their summer road trips. Here are a few reminders that will help make your trip a success.

1. Car prep: Make sure that your car is ready for a long trip. Get the oil changed and make sure all the fluid levels are topped off. Check your tires and, if they are worn, replace them before you set out on a long trip. Hot, worn tires and hot road surfaces don’t make a good combination. Be sure to check your spare tire’s condition and pressure too. Get an air conditioning tune-up. Air conditioning is the last thing you want to lose on a long, hot trip. If you are packing equipment in or on a car top carrier, make sure it is secure. You don’t want your belongings flying off on the interstate. When packing the car, make sure those items you will want to retrieve on a regular basis are packed last and are easily accessible. Make sure that your car has an emergency kit with a flashlight, batteries, emergency flags and reflectors, tape for wrapping and sealing hoses, a good combination tool, coolant, and water.

2. Give yourself enough time: Plan your trip so you have plenty of time to get to your destination. When setting out on a long trip, make sure you have had enough rest before departing. Driving while sleepy is just as dangerous as driving under the influence. If you start to feel drowsy, don't push yourself. If possible, swap drivers. If there isn’t another driver available, stop and take a short nap. Never try to use caffeine to replace sleep. A lot of people plan their trips to travel at night when traffic is light, but if you are not normally awake during those hours, you risk falling asleep at the wheel.

3. Traveling with children: Bored children can be very distracting on a long trip. Make sure the kids have plenty of activities to keep them occupied. Carry healthy snacks and drinks for them. Plan your trip to allow several extra hours and stop often to let the kids out for exercise to drain off some of their excess energy. Engage them in family games or stop at your local library and pick up some family friendly audio books. An excellent source for games and travel activities can be found at Mom’s

4. Towing boats or trailers: Make sure that your trailer hitch is firmly secured and that all electrical connections and lights are operating properly. Remember that the extra weight will push your car forward, so it will take longer to stop. Give yourself extra following distance between you and any vehicles ahead. Make sure any equipment that you have stowed in a boat or open trailer is securely fastened and covered.

5.Planning your routes: Plan your route and schedule your trip so that you will get the most enjoyment from the experience. Traveling the back roads can be a lot more interesting and picturesque than the interstate. Use caution if you are not used to the terrain you’ll be traveling in. Driving in the mountains requires a lot more caution because the roads are narrow and you can never tell what is around the next curve or over the next hill. Use extra caution when traveling down steep mountain grades. When traveling in unfamiliar territory, study your map at each stop and have a companion act as a navigator. A lot of conflicts occur when native drivers have to deal with slow tourists who don’t know where they are going. GPS devices are a great new technology for drivers in unfamiliar territory.

6. Driving distractions: Driving takes all of your attention and skill at all times. Driving distractions such as using a cell phone, reading a map, eating, or dealing with unruly children take your attention away from the very important task of driving. You cover more distance than you realize and a lot can happen if your eyes are off the road even for just a second or two. If you need to read a map or deal with unruly children, pull off the road and stop. Take time to stop and eat instead of trying to deal with a meal in the car. Cell phone use is one of the most dangerous distractions on the road today. Leave the distractions aside and enjoy the view.

7. Driving in unfamiliar places: Be aware when driving in other states that the driving laws there may be different from what you are used to. Some states have laws requiring drivers to stop for anyone approaching a crosswalk. Don’t assume the car ahead will keep going. If you live and drive in a rough-and-tumble city environment, you might find it startling and confusing when rural drivers exercise common courtesies that are a thing of the past in the city. Courtesy on the road is a key to staying safe.

8. Never leave children or pets in a hot car: Even if you leave the windows cracked, summer sun and hot temperatures can easily drive temperatures inside a closed car to over 150 degrees in a very short time. In those conditions, heatstroke can set in very quickly.

9. Security: Thieves look for out-of-state tags because it means there may be valuables in the car. Secure cameras and other valuables in the trunk and never leave the car unlocked and unattended, no matter how short a time. Thieves are fast and bold.

10. Alcohol and hot weather: Vacations and alcohol often go together, but use caution. Hot weather dehydrates and weakens you. Alcohol isn’t effective for hydrating or cooling down. In a dehydrated, overheated state, the effects of alcohol can be more intense. If you plan to go out for an evening that involves alcohol, leave the car at the hotel and take a cab. Remember that driving buzzed is driving impaired.

Have a safe, enjoyable, and a very memorable vacation.

Additional Summer Safety Driving Tips:
Tips for Safe Summer Driving: How to Select a Rental Car

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