Road trips are an appealing way to travel. With nothing but the open road ahead, and the freedom to stop when you want and explore at will, the allures are many.
However, traveling by car can turn into a disaster if you do not take adequate precautions. It is essential that you plan ahead and stay safe on the road.
We have put together a fantastic guide that lets you stay on top of almost every emergency that may arise.
The Best Safety Tips for Road Trips
Check Your Vehicle
It’s not a good idea to just jump in your car and travel across time zones. If you are like most of us, some servicing is required. Make an appointment with your local mechanic to have them look over your car before the trip.
Coolant and oil must be topped up. Also, check the brake fluid. The tires must be in good condition. If the treads have worn out, buy or rent new tires. The car must be running without any unusual sounds from the suspension or engine.
You should also remember to pack along some extra motor oil, a tire pressure gauge, spare tire, car jack, and windshield washer fluid.
Plan Your Route
While one of the best parts about road trips is the ability to take detours, it’s a good idea to have a route in mind to calculate driving time, fuel stops, motels, and food.
Google Maps is an ideal phone app for trip planning. It comes preinstalled on Android phones, and needs iOS 12 to work on iPhones.
The app works offline, which is a major bonus when you are out of range of cellphone towers. The level of detail available in Google Maps is striking. You can plan your trip by the mile, even looking at stops and destinations from street view.
Of course, a good old-fashioned roadmap is never a bad idea to have for a backup. If your phone stops working, being able to get a general idea of where your next turn is can make your trip far less stressful. You can still buy roadmaps at most bookstores, and at many gas stations.
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Carry an Emergency Kit
Though we of course hope it never happens, it’s important to be prepared for an emergency at all times. During a road trip, be sure to carry the following in your car:
- First-aid kit with surgical patches and adhesive bandages.
- Basic medication including ibuprofen or acetaminophen for pain, meclizine or dimenhydrinate for nausea, and an effective allergy medication.
- At least one flashlight, plus extra batteries.
- A fully charged power bank to keep your phone or GPS charged in case of a breakdown.
- Jumper cables and tow-rope. If you have car issues, these can help you get going again or at least towed to safety.
The fact is, the open road can be a dangerous place. According to the World Health Organization, an average of 1.35 million people die in automobile accidents each year. In 2018 alone, there were 12 million vehicles involved in crashes just in the U.S.
Though you can do your part by driving responsibly and keeping your vehicle in good working order, you cannot control the actions of other drivers. If you do require medical attention due to an automobile accident while traveling abroad, it’s important to have travel medical insurance or travel insurance. A proper insurance plan can provide necessary financial protection from large medical bills.
Watch the Weather
Weather conditions – and road conditions – can change rapidly while traveling by car. Many a crash has been caused by a sudden downpour limiting visibility, or an unseen patch of ice on the road. It’s important to pay attention to the weather at all times, and drive accordingly.
If traveling in the winter, be sure to pack tire chains and plenty of warm blankets in case you get stuck. Be sure your car is fitted with all-season or winter tires with plenty of tread depth. Also, it is important to ensure that your car’s heater is working properly before you depart.
Regardless of season, make sure your car’s headlights, taillights and running lights are all functioning correctly. Check the condition of your windshield wipers, and replace them if they are cracked or leave streaks.
If you encounter hazardous weather or road conditions while driving, slow down. Do not hesitate to pull over, or find a safe place to park until the weather passes. If the road becomes snowy or icy and you are uncomfortable driving on it, consider stopping early to get a hotel. It is better to delay your trip a bit until road conditions improve than it is to end up in an accident because you decided to keep driving during a storm.
Beware of Other Drivers
There’s no way of knowing why some people drive the way they do. Some may be distracted, others intoxicated, and still more can simply be angry and impatient. Regardless of why people drive badly, you need to be diligent to keep yourself safe.
Always look both ways before crossing intersections. Even if you have the right of way or green light, there’s no guarantee the other driver is paying attention. Also, if you encounter a rude driver who tailgates, cuts you off, or honks at you, it is best to let the situation go. Road rage is a real problem, and you do not want to end up in a situation with someone dangerous if you can avoid it.
If you ever feel threatened by another driver, do not hesitate to pull over safely and use your cellphone to call local law enforcement. If you have the other driver’s license plate number, you can pass the information on to the dispatcher and hopefully prevent them from causing a danger to any other drivers.
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Both you and your car need plenty of fuel to keep going on a road trip. Do your best to eat healthy when you can, and limit the amount of gas station snacks you consume. Many veteran road trippers choose to fill a cooler with healthy foods to avoid the expense and gastronomic distress of roadside restaurants.
Though your car is likely less picky about the fuel it consumes, it will need to have plenty of it. Fill your tank frequently, especially when driving through remote areas. You cannot always plan on gas stations in small towns being open, especially at night or on weekends. It is also a good idea to carry a small gas can in your trunk with some extra fuel just in case.
Settle Your Children In
Children quarreling in your car can be a big distraction. If you take your eyes off the road to deal with your kids, you could be involved in an accident.
If you’re traveling with children, make sure they are properly buckled in at all times, and placated with a variety of games and activities to keep them occupied. Doing so can help you focus on the road ahead.
Working on a car is not as simple as it used to be. Modern automobiles are as much about computers as they are engines, transmissions, and wheels. If you have a mechanical issue on your road trip, it’s difficult to have the right knowledge to get going again.
While it’s not going to be possible for you to learn to change your brake pads or tune your engine on the side of the road, there are situations where you can put a little bit of automotive knowledge to use. For instance, every driver should know how to change a flat tire, replace an air filter, check their fluid levels, or connect jumper cables to their battery.
These actions take little or no tools, and you can easily learn to do them using your owner’s manual, or a YouTube tutorial. Just keep in mind that all cars are different. If you’re renting a vehicle, things could be in different places than where you’re used to.
Get Adequate Rest
Unless you get enough sleep, you are a danger to yourself and others. You will be piloting a machine that weighs more than a ton moving at high speeds. That is a deadly projectile.
If you are drowsy, something terrible could happen.
You must get at least seven hours of sleep before you embark on the trip. This is not negotiable under any circumstances, no matter how fit or experienced you are.
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