Few things say “summer vacation” like packing up the car, rolling down the windows, and getting out of town on a road trip. Massachusetts residents agree: in a summer road trip survey we recently conducted, 100% of respondents plan to go on at least one road trip this summer. Are you set up for a safe summer road trip? Read on for the top road trip safety tips from the law offices of Peter Ventura.
Check Your Car Before You Go
A breakdown will literally stop your road trip in its tracks. Ensure you’re spending your vacation in the fast lane, not the breakdown lane, by giving your car a checkup before you go. Verify your lights work, top off your wiper fluid, and check your tire pressure—don’t forget to check the spare, too, if you have one.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends that drivers check tire inflation once a month, when the tires are cold. Remember that the correct tire pressure is printed in your owner’s manual, not on the tire itself. Underinflation is the leading cause of tire failure, and a tire can deflate over time without being punctured, so be sure to check your pressure regularly. Do you know how to check tire pressure? Nearly a tenth (9.5%) of survey respondents do not.
Pack an Emergency Kit
Even if your car is in top shape, it’s still smart to pack an emergency kit just in case. Make sure it contains first aid supplies, jumper cables, blankets, flares, a flashlight, extra water, and food. On remote roads, it might be a long time before help arrives. Only 79.5% of survey respondents pack an emergency kit for road trips. Are you one of them?
Check Traffic and Weather, Too
Weather conditions caused stress for 19% of survey respondents. That’s with good reason, since here in New England, the weather can change at the drop of a hat. Be sure to check the weather before you go, and if you encounter dangerous road conditions, pull over until the weather clears.
Traffic can cause unsafe driving conditions as well. When you’re driving in a new place, unfamiliar dangerous intersections can raise your risk for a traffic accident. When in doubt, slow down, or make a pit stop to wait out the traffic.
As the weather warms up this summer, more motorcyclists will be sharing the road. When traveling behind motorcycles, leave extra room between your vehicles. Because bikes are lighter, they can come to a stop in a shorter distance; with extra space to stop, you won’t run the risk of rear-ending the motorcycle.
Drive Within Your Limits
When faced with a long drive ahead, it’s tempting to attempt to power through in order to get to the destination sooner. However, safety-minded drivers should reconsider that approach.
More than a quarter (27.5%) of survey respondents indicated that they were comfortable driving 301 miles or more on a summer road trip, and 26% felt a 6-7 hour drive was the ideal road trip length.
Fatigued drivers are slower to react, putting them at higher risk of getting in a traffic accident. Although falling asleep at the wheel is a serious concern, even drowsy drivers have severely compromised reflexes; in fact, drowsy driving can be as dangerous as drunk driving. According to the National Sleep Foundation, being awake for 18 hours straight makes a person drive like you have a blood alcohol of .05, and being awake for 24 hours is like having a .10 BAC. As a point of reference, .08 is legally drunk.
When you’re tired, navigating road hazards becomes significantly trickier, especially on unfamiliar roads. Country roads may not have much street lighting at night, and tight twists and sharp turns will challenge even the most alert driver. In more remote areas, there is always the risk of wildlife entering the roadway. In order to keep your reflexes sharp, drive only when you’ve had ample rest.
Minimize Distractions on Your Summer Road Trip
Long drives can be tedious, and it’s tempting to distract yourself to make the time pass faster. However, as the driver, you have one job, and that is to transport your passengers to the destination safely. That said, it’s challenging to focus on the road when the kids are yelling in the backseat.
Of survey respondents, 17.5% were most stressed at the prospect of keeping their kids entertained on a road trip, and 29.5% said kids were the biggest distraction while driving—second only to cell phone use, which 37.5% declared to be the biggest distraction.
Make sure the kids are entertained so you can focus on the drive. Bring along enough books, magazines, videos, or games to keep the kids occupied. When the kids are happy, everyone is happy!
The kids aren’t the only distraction that compromises driver safety. Even having a snack can pose a distraction while driving. Yet, 88.5% of survey respondents admitted to snacking while driving.
Build extra time into your itinerary to stop and eat—even if it’s just pulling over to the side of the road for a granola bar—for extra safety on your road trip.
Have a Fun and Safe Summer
Here at the law offices of Worcester personal injury attorney Peter Ventura, we certainly hope your summer road trip vacations go off without a hitch. If you find yourself injured in a road trip accident this summer, we’re here to help. Contact our offices for a free and confidential consultation today.