The holiday season is the busiest time of the year for travelers. And while the news may focus on packed airports and lengthy flight delays, there are many Americans that travel by vehicle to get to their holiday destinations.
With distractions that impair focused driving, such as unfavorable weather conditions, crowded roadways, mechanical problems and more, road trips can quickly turn from fun to dangerous. Thankfully, there are a few steps you can take to ensure your passengers’ safety and comfort on the road.
Prepare Your Vehicle
It’s important that your vehicle is in top shape before embarking on a lengthy journey. Make sure to do the following before your trip:
- Check tire pressure and tread depth
- Replace wiper blades
- Refill windshield wiper reservoir and antifreeze
- Change your car’s oil
- Get a brake check
- Test the battery
- Check all lights, including high beams, blinkers and parking lights
- Check transmission and power-steering fluid
- Check your spare tire to make sure it isn’t flat
Once you have your vehicle in working order, you’ll also want to create a safety kit to store in your car in case of an emergency. If you’re traveling to or from northern states during these winter months, keep those weather conditions in mind. Your kit should include:
- A first-aid kit
- Small reflective traffic cones or signs
- A blanket for each person
- Warm clothes
- Non-perishable food
- Jumper cables
- Duct tape
- Cellphone charger
- Car jack
- Old towel (to lay on the ground in case you need to get under the car)
- Snow brush, ice scraper, cat litter or traction mats and a shovel (for snowy/icy conditions)
Plan Your Trip
Even if your holiday road trip is one you’ve made dozens of times, it is important to map out your route. Roads and exits often change, and confusion while driving can easily lead to an accident. While it’s always smart to bring a printed copy of your route in the event you lose cell service, apps like Waze are the gold standard. Waze will give you updates on road closures, accidents, and even let you know when you’re approaching bad weather. You can even send your ETA to friends and family who have the app, and schedule side trips off the main route.
Once you have checked your route, be sure to let one person at your starting point and one at the ending point know your route and ETA in case of emergency. You should also update and register your emergency contact information to assist local authorities if needed.
Make sure to have your AAA roadside assistance card handy. If you don’t have AAA, check with your credit card, insurance and other subscriptions to see if you may have a free roadside-assistance program you weren’t aware of. You can also download the Urgent.ly app, which will contact the closest available assistance provider for you.
Keep Children Happy and Safe
Keeping kids occupied will help you focus on driving and decrease stress for the whole family. Pack a holiday activity kit for children before the trip. Some ideas to include in the kit:
- A holiday bingo game
- A coloring book of Christmas cards for children to give to loved ones
- Handheld video games or card games
- Holiday cookies to reward good behavior
- A split-socket car charger (to avoid battles over who can charge their device)
Keeping small children safe in vehicles is always a top priority, so it’s important to make sure safety and booster seats are installed properly. To ensure these seats aren’t one of the 8 in 10 installed improperly, call 866-SEAT-CHECK for a free inspection.
Secure Everything in the Back Seats
If you have little ones in the back, ensure they’re properly strapped into their seats. Additionally, heavy items that aren’t secured can become dangerous projectiles if an accident occurs. Make sure all luggage and loose items are strapped down to the bed of your vehicle if not in the vehicle’s trunk.
Your items are also at an increased risk of theft during the holiday season. Be sure to keep valuable items concealed in a storage container, trunk or brought with you inside of hotels and pit stops.
On the Road
There are steps you can take to be a safe driver during the holiday season. While it may be tempting to get to your destination faster, make sure to stop every 100 miles (or about every two to three hours) to stretch and take a short walk. This will help you stay awake and alert, as well as keep your body’s circulation going. Be sure to get a good night’s rest before your journey, as well.
Additionally, a good rule of thumb before any road trip is to take a few extra minutes before your journey to ensure that your attention is on the road. Unscrew your water bottle cap, put your phone in a hands-free holder and connect it to bluetooth, adjust your seat and mirrors, and do any other preparations that could divert your attention later on.
By using these helpful tips while traveling, you’ll be set up for a smooth journey. However, even the most prepared could still run into problems on the road. If an auto accident or other personal injury occurs, Cohen and Cohen Law is here to help. Contact our team any time and we’ll help you determine your best next steps.