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Safe Summer Travel

Safe Summer Travel

By: Clara Nicolini

 

With millions of Americans hitting the road this summer, particularly around major holidays, it’s imperative that you take measures to ensure safe travel. Checking your car before and after a road trip, planning your journey meticulously, and packing all necessary supplies are just a few ways to avoid unnecessary delays and to help you prepare for any hiccups along the way. Below, we outline a number of steps you should take before you begin your journey, in the interest of helping you enjoy your summer travels to the fullest.

 

Plan your journey

In the age of Google Maps, it’s tempting to simply hit the road and let your GPS lead the way. However, while you may not need to map out a specific route, you should still make a brief plan before you begin traveling. First and foremost, you should check for travel advisories. During wildfires, last summer, popular navigation apps like Waze sent drivers into the flames because their system hadn’t updated closures in time. To avoid driving into dangerous situations, you should check your GPS ahead of time, and then independently ensure that all routes are clear and safe for you to follow.

While planning your journey, you should also consider timing, and schedule your trip during daylight hours if possible. Night driving poses more risks than daytime driving (you are statistically three times more likely to crash), particularly in desolate or remote areas. If you can, look to begin car trips in the early hours of the morning instead of late at night. Leaving earlier in the morning will allow you to beat the worst of traffic while still feeling refreshed after sleeping, and with lots of light to help guide the way.

 

Check your Car

Before beginning a road trip, you should always run a brief maintenance check on your car. Doing so will not only help avoid unwanted delays along the way but will also make sure that both you and your family travel safely. You should always check:

Fluids. This includes oil, transmission, coolant, windshield, and brake fluid levels. Make sure each one is sufficiently topped up, and if you are near or overdue for an oil change, get one before you start your road trip.
Tire pressure. You should ensure that all four tires on your car are at the correct level (the number is usually listed on your tire). Don’t exceed the limit, because this puts you at risk of blowing a tire, but likewise don’t undershoot it--as low tire pressure reduces fuel efficiency and increases the risk of a flat.
Check your lights. Make sure all indicators and brake lights are visible, as doing so will help you avoid an unwanted ticket and ensure that other drivers on the road keep their distance.
Check your battery. Start up your car, and listen for the starter. If it sounds slow or sluggish, it may be time to replace your battery.
Check your engine belts for any tears or signs of significant wear. This is more of a concern for older vehicles, or vehicles with lots of miles on them, but is still worth doing before you begin traveling.

 

Pack Smart

When packing for your trip, you should consider potential scenarios and plan accordingly. Traveling in a hot climate, for instance, means that you should pack plenty of water in case you hit severe traffic or suffer a breakdown. Likewise, if you’re traveling for long distances, you should pack plenty of snacks and drinks in the event that you get lost or be delayed unexpectedly in a rural area. Packing a few blankets for warmth, a change of clothes, a portable warning triangle, spare tire kit, extra medication, and a first aid kit is also recommended.

 

The above steps are just a few measures to take before beginning your travels, although there are likely other things for you to consider based on your unique situation and personal travel plans. We recommend, in this and many other instances, that you aim to be overprepared. It’s better to overpack, overcheck and over plan your summer travels--rather than do the bare minimum and suffer the consequences instead. After all, should you find yourself in a “what-if” scenario (such as a breakdown or hours of traffic without water) it’s unlikely that you’ll think to yourself “I’m so glad I underprepared for this.”


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