According to the American Automobile Association, an estimated 49.3 million Americans hit the road over the Thanksgiving holiday. Turkey Day may be in the rearview mirror, but with the winter holidays still ahead, drivers who plan to travel should take extra precautions.
Whether you’re embarking on a cross-country family road trip, driving straight to the airport, or attending local holiday gatherings, you can take a few basic measures to protect yourself and help make the roads safer for everyone.
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Service Your Vehicle
Even if there’s nothing wrong with your vehicle, you’ll never regret taking it in for a quick checkup before you hit the road. Get proactive about vehicle maintenance and be sure to do the following:
- Check tire pressure and tread depth.
- Look for tire damage like cracks, splits, and bulges.
- Get the tires rotated.
- Read your service manual to see if your vehicle requires an oil change. (The 3,000-mile rule is no longer the standard. Most cars can go much farther without needing this service.)
- Check other fluid levels.
- Get your brakes checked, especially if you have noticed any grinding, squeaking, or any other changes to the way your vehicle operates.
- Replace wiper blades if they squeak or streak.
- Ask a professional to look at your steering and suspension system.
Be Prepared for Inclement Weather
Driving on unfamiliar roads in the winter can make for an unpredictable situation. If there’s any chance you will need to navigate freezing conditions, don’t risk being caught empty-handed. Pack a container of emergency supplies including blankets, flashlights, reflectors or road flares, a portable phone charger, a first-aid kit, protein bars, extra gloves, an ice scraper, water bottles, and antifreeze. Have tire change equipment at the ready.
While it’s smart to be prepared for everything, overloading your car may actually put you at greater risk of an accident. Exceeding your vehicle’s maximum capacity can decrease the performance of your tires, suspension, and brakes. If you’re worried about your heavy load, leave a few non-essentials behind in favor of the emergency kit.
Map Your Route Before Departing
The last thing anyone needs during the busy holiday travel season is one more distracted driver on the road. Do your best to avoid consulting your smartphone while you drive. Plan your pit stops ahead of time and add them to whatever app you’re using so you don’t have to reroute. Be familiar with alternate routes in case of road closures or traffic jams.
Give Yourself Extra Time to Travel
Stressed-out driving is distracted driving. Even if you’re not speeding to make up for lost time, merely worrying about being late can have an impact on your driving. Avoid the crunch entirely and leave in plenty of time to account for unexpected setbacks.
Arrange a Sober Ride Home
Holiday parties are the perfect occasion to let loose with family and friends. And they’re even more fun and relaxing if you don’t have to worry about how you’re going to get home after drinking. Arrange a ride with a designated driver, or plan to use a ridesharing app to get home safely. Driving under the influence is never worth it.
Don’t Drive Drowsy
Driving tired may not seem as serious as driving under the influence, but the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that 2.5 percent of all fatal crashes in 2014 involved drowsy driving. People who sleep six or fewer hours per night are more likely to report falling asleep behind the wheel, so be sure to get plenty of rest before you embark on a long drive.
Know Who to Contact in Case of an Accident
Unfortunately, accidents happen — even to people who take every precaution. If you’ve been in an accident, contact first responder and law enforcement right away. When the dust settles, find a car accident lawyer who will be your ally as you navigate the physical, emotional, and financial repercussions of a car accident. Contact us to schedule a free, no-pressure evaluation that will allow you to make an informed decision about how to proceed.
Travel safe, and happy holidays!