In this blog post we’re providing ten road trip tips to readers to help them have a safe, but still enjoyable, road trip. We’ll cover various pieces of valuable advice, including making sure the car is fully functioning and packing an emergency kit, as well as best practices to keep in mind while readers are behind the wheel, like defensive driving.
Road trips are certainly an enjoyable and exciting way to travel throughout the United States. It’s important you recognize safe practices, and ensure safety is a top priority before you head out. Unfortunately, it’s easy for things to go wrong on the road, which can lead to numerous issues. Some examples of things that can go wrong include damages to your vehicle, and injuries to yourself and passengers. These concerns are certainly amplified during various holidays, like the Fourth of July or Memorial day, when the roads become significantly congested. Prioritizing safety on holiday weekends is even more important.
Follow these ten safety tips to make sure your road trip goes smoothly and you arrive at your destination safely:
Check your car
The safe, efficient operation of your vehicle is certainly one of the most important places to start. Here are a few basic issues to take care of before setting out on the road. While not all of them are required, they’re great to consider:
- Change your oil. Oil lubricates the engine and absorbs heat, allowing the internal parts of your engine to work together without overheating. As your oil gets older, it breaks down, and works less efficiently. Generally, mechanics and car manufacturers suggest changing your oil every 3,000 – 5,000 miles.
- Tune up your car. A car tune-up is preventative maintenance performed on a vehicle to ensure it continues to perform well. The work consists of cleaning or replacing spark plugs. Some tune ups include replacing the distributor cap and rotor of the vehicle. Tune ups maintain your car’s performance and extend its life.
- Check your car for recalls. Upon purchasing a new vehicle, you’ll likely receive regular notices advising of manufacturer recalls for your vehicle. Some may not be important. But some certainly could be. Reaching out to your local car dealership (brand-specific) is a great place to start investigating any potential recalls.
- Check your tires. Tires are your contact with the road. As tires age, they begin to wear down, reducing the amount of tread. As this happens, your tires will grip the road less. Along with the status of the tire, make sure they have the appropriate tire pressure. Those numbers are generally listed on the side of the tire itself.
- If you’re still worried, bring the car into a mechanic. Frequently mechanics will perform inspections of your vehicle. As these individuals work on cars every day, they’re certainly in the best position to determine if your car needs any work done before the trip.
Bring an emergency kit
You should always have an emergency kit in your car, but it’s especially important to make sure it’s well-stocked before going on a long trip. While properly preparing your vehicle is a great start, it cannot prevent various problems like punctured tires, collisions, or passenger illnesses. Those issues can occur at any time.
We suggest including the following items in your emergency kit:
- Basic medical supplies, including non-prescription painkillers. Plasters, gauze, bandages, safety pins, sterile gloves, and tweezers are also incredibly helpful.
- A flashlight is certainly important. Sometimes emergencies happen at night. Your ability to see, and to track down help, is incredibly important during an emergency.
- Similarly, a flare, warning light, or hazard triangle will help divert traffic in the event of a car accident. In the case of being stranded, these supplies will help emergency medical personnel find you.
- A fire extinguisher is helpful in the event a fire occurs, in your vehicle on in another vehicle on the highway.
- Jumper cables or an emergency battery booster. If your car runs out of juice and you’re unable to start it, you’ll need a way to get back on the road.
Always wear your seatbelt
This one should go without saying. Make sure that you wear your seatbelt while driving your vehicle. This certainly applies any time you’re in the car, not just when you’re on a road trip. A seat belt can save your life in the event of an accident. And finally, if you find them uncomfortable, look into buying a pad or adjuster that makes the belt more comfortable for you.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, seat belts saved an estimated 14,955 lives in 2017. These staggering numbers show just how much simply strapping in impacts your drive.
Finally, operating a motor vehicle without wearing a seatbelt could result in a law enforcement officer pulling you over. In that case, you’ll be subject to potential fines, and the delay will cut into your trip.
Practice defensive driving
The National Safety Council defines defensive driving skills as “driving to save lives, time, and money, in spite of the conditions around you and the actions of others.” We certainly think it’s important to focus on the last few words: the actions of others. Always practice defensive driving while you’re behind the wheel. Driving aggressively will only irritate other drivers, endangers the lives of everyone around you, and put you at risk of getting pulled over for a traffic violation. Finally, practicing defensive driving could result in a safer trip.
Defensive driving includes a few basic principles:
- Control your speed.
- Look ahead on the road, and expect the potential of hazards.
- Be alert and free of distractions.
- Regarding others in traffic:
- Be prepared for all sorts of actions and reactions of other drivers and pedestrians.
- Do not expect other drivers to do what is “right” or to operate their vehicle like you would.
- Watch and respect other drivers.
- Regarding your vehicle:
- Maintain a safe following distance of other vehicles.
- Drive safely considering weather and road conditions.
- Adjust your speed before entering bends, to avoid braking in the middle of a turn.
Follow common rules of the road
Be sure to follow all the rules of the road during your trip. Getting pulled over for breaking the law will put a damper on your trip and leave you with a legal mess to deal with once you’re back home. And if you committed a traffic infraction in a different state? You might have to return to clear up that situation.
Road rage incidents are certainly a way that these issues could come up. Something like carelessly driving slowly in the left lane could lead to aggression from other drivers, but could also result in a ticket. Obviously, as we previously discussed, wear your seatbelt. And finally, don’t drive intoxicated. While you may be letting loose on the trip, a drunk driving conviction could result in criminal charges depending on where it’s committed. You’ll be forced to seek legal help for a traffic citation if you aren’t careful on the roads.
Stay off your phone
Don’t use your phone while you’re behind the wheel. Each state has its own laws about cell phone use while driving, and even different counties or cities within a state may have local ordinances governing cell phone use. It’s safer for you and everyone else to just stay off your phone while driving.
If a police officer sees you on your phone, you risk a ticket. But even more concerning than that, what if you end up in a car accident resulting in a death. Your carefree, fun road trip could turn into homicide charges.
If you’re traveling with other licensed drivers, switch up who drives the car periodically. Staying behind the wheel can be exhausting, but sharing the responsibility of driving can make the whole trip less stressful and strenuous for everyone. Splitting up driving responsibilities by state, or regularly after specific intervals are a great idea. Spending more than a few hours behind the wheel should only be done if you’re completely comfortable driving.
In addition, be sure to take regular breaks to stop and get out of the car. Stretch your legs, get some food or water, and check your vehicle to make sure everything is working properly. Even a small break can be incredibly refreshing.
Break up the trip
For longer trips, consider breaking it up into multiple days. Stay overnight in a city you’ve always wanted to visit or with a friend or family member before continuing on the next day. It will make the trip less exhausting and give you a chance to recuperate before hitting the road once more. This works similarly to sharing the drive, but sometimes getting out of the car helps make a long trip more enjoyable. Certainly a road trip shouldn’t be spent entirely in the car.
Enjoy your trip
Finally, be sure to enjoy your trip! Road trips are supposed to be enjoyable, and although it may seem overwhelming, prioritizing safety is important in making sure the entire journey is fun. Following these simple tips are a great way to start things off on the right foot.
Should you get into a situation involving a ticket or criminal charge, certainly we suggest you hire a local, experienced criminal defense attorney to help you through. Criminal defense attorneys regularly defend individuals facing tough situations.