As the COVID guidelines are relaxing in the U.S., most Americans are looking at their homes in the rear-view mirror. Flights have become less predictable due to labor shortages and other factors associated with the current pandemic, so many people are hitting the road in their cars.
Since it has been such a long time since many of us have gone road tripping, review your checklist about how to stay safe and how to drive safely to enjoy the fun and low-maintenance trip that you deserve. You can rest easy knowing that car safety has improved over time.
With travel during the pandemic becoming a guessing game and the possibility of you losing the ability to fly at all due to weather delays and COVID-19 issues, Americans are relying on their vehicles for vacation trips more than ever before. With more people hitting the pavement,you need to be prepared.
Getting Your Vehicle Ready
You should only take a reliable vehicle on a road trip. Take your car to a trusted mechanic to do a pre-trip inspection of your car. This will likely come with a cost, but the price of being confident that your vehicle will be reliable throughout your entire journey is priceless.
Test the Battery
Accidents and mechanical failures cannot be 100% predicted, but the probability of them happening can be minimized. Check your vehicle’s battery regularly after it reaches two years old. When going on a trip, you must check for corrosion and the proper connection of your battery.
Check the Fluids
You’ll want to check all of the fluids in the vehicle and top off any low ones. Check the brakes for any sounds that don’t sound normal. If your brakes make a strange squeak-like sound, you may want your local mechanic to check and potentially replace your brake pads.
Be sure to check that all electrical equipment such as windshield wipers and lights are working as they should.
Inspect the Tires
Lastly, but maybe more importantly, make sure that your tires are in good condition. Having tires that aren’t adequately inflated is not only dangerous, but it can also cost you more money because it will lower your miles per gallon. Don’t forget to check your spare tire also.
Check Your License and Registration
Double-check that your license is not set to expire soon and that you have copies of your insurance card and your vehicle registration somewhere quickly accessible in your vehicle.
Since it can be hard to file an accident claim if your license or insurance has expired, you don’t want your coverage to lapse. You especially don’t want to have to figure out what to do if your insurance expired after an accident.
Different states have varying laws, so it is best to be prepared with as much documentation as possible when traveling in areas you are not familiar with.
Preparing for Weather or Other Emergencies While on the Road
Almost 25% of all accidents occur when weather conditions are not ideal. Road trips across different states can bring other weather forecasts. Be sure to check the weather before leaving, so you know what to expect. If the weather is bad enough, consider delaying the start time of your road trip.
Sometimes the weather can change pretty quickly. If you find yourself already driving when conditions get dangerous, lower your speed to maintain control safely. Rather than risk a potential accident, pull over and park in a parking lot instead of on the side of the road. Other drivers may not be aware that you are stopped, which could cause an accident.
If you are driving through heavy rain, pay close attention to the flood warnings close by and keep watch for signs marking high water areas. Do not use your vehicle’s cruise control feature if you are driving through snow or water, as this only allows for braking when brakes have been applied, resulting in a delayed action and potential accident.
Pack Emergency Supplies
Your vehicle has been checked by your mechanic and is safe to drive the distance, but what happens when an emergency occurs? There are certain items that you should have in your vehicle at all times, like jumper cables, a spare tire, a wheel wrench, and a jack.
But what other items would be good for you to have on hand while traveling far?
Depending on the season you are traveling during or the places you are crossing through, you may want to pack extra coats, hats, gloves, and blankets in your vehicle if you get stuck in an emergency during the colder months. A tarp or a raincoat will come in handy if you get stuck somewhere during the rainy season.
A flare or other items such as reflective cones will safely identify that your vehicle is pulled over for other drivers on that road. Extra phone chargers, a first aid kit, bottled water, and flashlights are items that are suggested to keep in your car year-round in case of emergencies.
Final Tips for Driving Safely
Whether you are driving to your vacation destination or taking a road trip across the country, you will want to make sure the driver gets between seven to nine hours of sleep the night before.
Accidents caused by fatigue are more popular than you would think. You know your limits best.
If you feel tired, find a rest stop or parking lot and switch drivers or take a nap.
Check your gas gauge often. Most likely, you will be traveling to and through areas you are not familiar with, and you won’t know where the next gas station may be. Mountain ranges and other areas with little to no population may not provide access to gas stations; it is best to check your gauge often and not allow your tank to fall below a quarter full of gas.
Thanks to car safety improvements over the years, our current technology and safety features in vehicles such as car seats and seat best are keeping us protected like never before. You can reduce your chances of a fatal accident by nearly half by buckling up.
You can ensure car seats are installed correctly by getting a free safety check at your local fire station. Have all passengers buckle up before you hit the road, and have children twelve or younger sit in the backseats.
Stay Safe on the Road
Whether traveling near or far, you want to ensure your vehicle is reliable and your family is safe.
Take a few extra minutes to go over your safety checklist, pack extra warm weather gear, snacks, bottled water, and first aid materials for additional peace of mind during your much-deserved road trip.
Kalyn Johnson writes and researches for the car insurance comparison site, CarInsurance.org. As a mother of four young children, Kalyn and her husband often take road trips and constantly discover new ways to stay safe.