If you’re headed out on a road trip for this Labor Day weekend, you’ll want to be ready and well-equipped to have a safe and fun trip. Don’t let your road trip be ruined by a car accident! Keep these five important safety tips in mind while preparing for your long drive.
Have Your Vehicle Checked
When your vacation requires a long road trip, you need your car to be in the best possible shape. Before you leave, take it to a qualified mechanic and have it checked out: don’t wait to find out about any problems until you’re halfway into the trip and pulling onto the shoulder! Make sure your car’s check-up includes a look at the fluids, tires, belts and air conditioner. Take a look at the weather, not just where you’re going, but also along the way. If you’ll be driving in the heat, or if you’re towing a trailer or a recreational vehicle, it’s worth asking your mechanic whether a high-viscosity oil might help its performance.
Pack for a Safe Trip
Check your backseat and make sure your child safety locks, rear air conditioning vents and rear seatbelts are all in working order. Make sure any booster seats are correctly installed—you can call 866-SEAT-CHECK for help if you’re uncertain. Stow away choking hazards like small, easily-removed knobs or loose objects, along with any hazardous substances like washer fluid or antifreeze, in the trunk or otherwise out of reach of small hands. Poke around for things like toys and hardback books that could become airborne in the event of a sudden stop or a car accident.
When you’re packing the car, put any heavy objects or luggage down low between the seats, in the trunk, or where they won’t be airborne if you have to stop suddenly. It’s a good idea to tie down any luggage, strollers, and other large items so they won’t roll or slide around. You should also assemble an emergency kit with things like extra water, first aid supplies, a cell phone that’s completely charged, a flashlight, and car-trouble supplies like jumper cables, flares, and tire-changing tools.
Sleep loss and drowsiness are some of the most dangerous road hazards you’ll encounter. Every aspect of driving to carefully and safely avoid a car accident depends on your ability to pay attention to your surroundings and respond quickly to avoid hazards. Make sure you get plenty of sleep the night before you’re due to drive. If you find yourself nodding off in the driver’s seat or drifting in your lane, it’s time to pull over or switch drivers. Ideally, you should switch places with a second adult driver every couple of hours, especially on very long drives.
Beat the Heat
You’ll need to take precautions to stay safe in the heat. Never leave your kids in the car alone for any reason or for any length of time, and always check the temperature of seats, seat belts and handles before allowing them to get in. Consider getting a sunshade for your front, back, and side windows or keep a blanket or towel on hand to drape over safety seats to keep them from getting too hot. Make sure every passenger has sunglasses, sunscreen, plenty of water, and maybe a hat that shades their ears and neck.
Have Important Contact Information Handy
If you have a roadside assistance plan—and you should definitely consider one if you’re making a long drive—make absolutely sure that you have any phone numbers and other contact information that you might need. You should also consider researching or communicating with a lawyer you trust in case of a car accident; keep this contact information close at hand as well, along with any further information you might need, like local emergency numbers, your insurance provider’s contact information, and the customer service numbers for your bank and credit card provider in case your wallet is lost or stolen.