15 driving safety tips for road trips
Safety tips useful for making road trips, covering both preparation for the trip and driving.
Road trips can be a lot of fun, and they offer some advantages over air travel. You can set your own schedule, change plans at a moment’s notice, and your only luggage limit is the vehicle’s capacity. In addition, you get the pleasure of seeing gradual changes in the scenery as you drive. To make your road trip the best experience possible, it’s important to keep safety in mind. Observe some simple safety tips and you will have many happy, safe road trips ahead of you.
1. Make sure your vehicle is up to date on its maintenance.
Getting ready for a trip is a busy time, but that’s no excuse for skipping that trip to the mechanic for routine maintenance. Make sure the car has had all required maintenance, and that all the fluids are at the proper levels. Check the tires to make sure they aren’t worn, and that they’re properly inflated.
2. Plan out your route.
Pull out the atlas or a set of roadmaps and take a look at where you’ll be driving. What will it be like? Know where you need to look for exits, where the road is a freeway and where it’s not, and what the terrain is like.
3. Plan appropriate stops.
After you’ve reviewed the route, decide how often you’ll need to stop. If you have small children or pets who need frequent bathroom stops, you’ll want to know where rest areas are located. You’ll also want to plan stops for mealtimes, and just get out of the driver’s seat and stretch your legs.
4. Be realistic about the time it will take to make the trip.
Don’t compute your arrival time based on everything going right. If you have a particular appointment and MUST be at your destination at a certain time, add some extra to cover delays such as heavy traffic, accidents, or detours.
5. Make sure everything, and everyone, is properly secured.
Make sure that your luggage is secured, whether it’s in the trunk or the back seat. A little bit of minor shifting is normal, but if you have to stop suddenly, you don’t want a suitcase to hit the back of your seat. All passengers should use seatbelts, with children in age-appropriate restraints. Pets should also be restrained, either a crate or a car harness specifically designed for animals.
6. Wear comfortable clothes for the drive.
When you’re performing a complex, demanding task – and make no mistake, controlling a car at high speeds, especially in traffic, is just that – you want to be wearing something that’s comfortable. Make sure your clothes don’t unnecessarily restrict your movements, and that you won’t be either too cold or too hot. Pay special attention to your shoes, and make sure they don’t have any loose heels, overly long shoelaces, or anything else that could get caught on the accelerator or brake.
7. Have necessary items within easy reach.
If the first leg of your journey involves a toll road or toll bridge, make sure you have money within reach. If you may need sunglasses later in the drive, put them in a convenient place. Don’t put yourself in a situation where you have to rummage for something and take your attention off of the road.
8. Adjust the car’s controls while you’re stopped.
The best time for you to fine-tune the settings on the heater or air conditioner, find a new radio station or change CD’s in the stereo, is when the car is stopped. Don’t ponder the question of country music versus greatest disco hits at 70 mph.
9. Follow the rules of the road.
The traffic laws were passed for good reasons. Don’t pass in no-passing zones, add 20 to the speed limit signs, or use the shoulder as another lane.
10. Be watchful of other drivers.
You’re obeying the law, of course, but are the other people on the road? Keep an eye out for people who drive recklessly, change lanes abruptly, slow down without warning, or anything else that could cause an accident. Use proper defensive driving techniques to avoid being drawn into any problems they may cause.
11. Beware of distractions.
Driving a car can become almost automatic, and it’s easy for your attention to be diverted off of the task at hand. While cell phones are common distractions, people can also be distracted by eating and drinking, combing their hair, conversations with passengers, or fighting between children in the back seat.
12. If you have a passenger, make them responsible for maps and directions.
By putting your passenger in charge of the maps and directions, you accomplish two things. First of all, you free yourself from the need to read something while you’re trying to watch the road. Second, if someone is reading a map, he or she is much less likely to be distracting you with an unrelated topic of conversation.
13. If you get tired, take extra breaks.
You’ve planned out a series of breaks, but what if you find yourself suddenly sleepy in between these breaks? Don’t wait another hour or two until your “scheduled” stop. Find a convenient place to get off the road, get some fresh air, and maybe get a cup of coffee. Don’t risk falling asleep at the wheel.
14. Deal appropriately with the weather.
Any number of weather conditions could make driving difficult – fog, heavy rain, sleet, snow, or even tornadoes. If the road is slippery or visibility is limited, slow down. If it truly is impossible to drive safely, at any speed, then take the first opportunity to get off of the road.
15. Plan for emergencies.
Despite your best plans, it’s possible that the car will break down or you’ll have an accident. Carry a few basic supplies for the car – washer fluid, coolant, and oil - a few snacks for you, and a cell phone to call for help if you need it. Don’t put yourself in a position where you have to wait and hope that a Good Samaritan will stop to help you.
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