There’s no better way to see the country’s most beautiful sights than by piling into the car for a road trip. The sad thing, though, is that few keep road safety in mind, and often disregard simple precautionary measures before they leave. In this article, we’re going to cover five simple ways to improve safety on your next road trip.
1) Take Your Car in for Service
To set out on a lengthy road trip in an uninspected car is to court disaster. It might break down in the middle of nowhere or worse, in a dangerous neighborhood. Thus, always take your car to a qualified mechanic for a tune up before hitting the road.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has some tips on what you need to have checked out. They include: seat belts, air conditioning system, and battery. It also recommends you check and top up all fluids, if necessary. If you plan on towing a trailer or driving in hot climates, top up with high viscosity motor oil.
2) Avoid Distractions
Anything that gets your mind off the road should be avoided at all costs. It could be something as simple as wondering whether you activated your SimpliSafe alarm system before leaving the house. In most cases, though, it is texting, looking at a map for directions, or turning to control noisy children in the back seat. Deal with these distractions by keeping the kids entertained with games or music, using a GPS with turn-by-turn directions, and not using your phone while driving.
3) Learn Some DIY Skills
You can still have car trouble, even after the best tune up. While some problems escape the mechanic's eye during inspection, others crop up during your journey. For this reason, you need to be prepared for any eventuality, and having some DIY mechanical skills is the best way to do so. For instance, do you know how to check for and add air pressure in your tires?
It may sound like a simple task, but few people know how it is done. Do you know how to change a flat tire? Will getting a flat on a lonely stretch of road at night be a wake-up call or a walk in the park? Some people don't even know how to add windshield wiper fluid or engine oil. Do some research before setting out, and brush up on your car skills.
4) Have a Road Emergency Kit
An emergency kit can be a life saver if you get into an accident, lose your way, or have your car break down. Unfortunately, one in two people do not check to see if they have one before setting out on a journey. This is according to a Liberty Mutual Insurance (LMI) New Beginnings Report. What items should be in an emergency kit? The NHTSA recommends the following items: a flashlight, jumper cables, flares, first aid kit, water, a couple of blankets, charged cell phones, and tools to change a flat tire.
If possible, these items should be in one place, lest you forget any. The LMI report found that 3 out of 5 people forget windshield wiper fluid while 2 out of 5 leave jumper cables or a flashlight behind. Even more alarming, 3 out of 10 people forget their cell phone charger. However, the most overlooked item is an old towel or sheet. It comes in handy if you have to lie down under the car to fix something.
5) Check the Back Seat
If you’re travelling with a child, check whether you have installed your their booster seat correctly. You may be surprised to learn that 4 out of 5 of them are not, so to be on the safe side, call 866-SEAT-CHECK for a free safety seat inspection. Next, make sure the back seat has no choking hazards such as loose change. Activate child safety locks on the doors and windows.
According to the National Safety Council Occupant Protection Program, you should also check for potential projectiles such as toys and books. They can cause injury if you come to a sudden stop or get involved in a crash. If you have to carry any heavy items in the back, keep them low in the seat wells or tie them down.
The next time you travel, make sure you keep road safety at the front of your mind and have your car inspected by a mechanic. But remember, even though this is important, it always helps if you acquire some DIY skills of your own so you'll be able to make some simple repairs like repairing a flat tire if need be. Finally, check if the booster seat is installed correctly, remove any potential projectiles from the back seat, and keep your eyes on the road.