The holiday season is a busy time of year in terms of travel. Many will take short or extended car trips to visit family and friends or to simply vacation. Make sure both you and your vehicle are properly prepared.
Make Sure Your Car is in Good Working Order
Cover the basics first by checking all of your fluid levels and tire pressures. Make sure your windshield wipers are in good repair and double check the amount of gas you have in your car. If your car hasn’t had a tune-up in a while, you should consider going to a mechanic for a once-over before a major trip.
Plan Your Route and Be Prepared
Try to plan the route you want to take to your destination in advance. Even if you have a GPS, it is important to have paper directions or a map as back-up in case something goes wrong. Check your weather and traffic reports before you leave and make any necessary adjustments to your route or even to the time you plan on leaving.
Defensive driving is important. Holiday travel means lots of cars on the road and congestion. You can’t eliminate stress, but you can be prepared for it. Obey the speed limit and don’t rise to the level of the aggressive drivers around you. Make sure you give yourself plenty of extra time to arrive at your destination safely.
Pack an Emergency Kit
You should have a basic emergency kit in your car at all times. This is especially important during the winter months when snow and ice can potentially leave you stranded for long periods of time. Your kit should include a blanket, extra gloves, hats, and socks, kitty litter or sand, a flashlight and extra batteries, road flares, bottled water, non-perishable protein bars and snacks, and basic car-maintenance items like jumper cables. If you don’t already have one, make sure you include a charged cell phone.
The general rule of thumb is that you should stop for a break every 100-120 miles, which usually equates to about 2 hours. Get a good night’s sleep the evening before your trip. If you do become too tired to focus, pull over at a rest area or find a motel – anywhere safe to stop and rest. Don’t put yourself or your passengers at risk.
Traveling to a holiday party? No matter how close or far it is to your home, you’ll want to make sure there is a designated driver for anyone who chooses to consume alcohol.
Even if you haven’t been drinking, you’ll want to assess how you feel after an afternoon or evening of food and conversation. Many people find they are very sleepy and a long drive home may not be safe. The National Sleep Foundation, in the Report on Drowsy Driving, reports that “100,000 reported crashes, 71,000 injuries and 1,550 deaths every year can be attributed to falling asleep at the wheel.” Make plans ahead of time, if you have a long drive home.
The roads can become incredibly congested during the holiday season, especially over the weekends. Always wear your seatbelt, use good judgment, give yourself plenty of time to get to your destination, and stay safe and enjoy the holidays.