Tis the season for vacations, and what better way to spend time together and bond as a family than by taking a road trip? If you’re planning on getting behind the wheel this vacation season, here are eight tips to remember during those long drives, so you reach your destination safe and sound.
1. Get enough sleep
Depending on where you’re traveling, it can take anywhere from 36 to 51 hours to drive from one side of the country to the other. Don’t drive when you’re sleepy, and make sure you get enough sleep between sessions. Going for 24 hours without sleep slows your reaction time down considerably—it’s equivalent to having a 0.10 blood alcohol level!
2. Keep a stocked first aid kit
Even if you’re not going on a road trip, you should always have a fully stocked first aid kit in your car. You never know when you or someone else is going to need it! You should also keep an emergency kit in your vehicle, with things like snacks, water, blankets, jumper cables and flares.
3. Put your seatbelts on
Seatbelts do get uncomfortable after a few hours in the car, but that doesn’t mean it’s safe to take them off. Accidents can happen at any time. The best way to avoid this restlessness is to stop and stretch your legs every couple of hours. It might add some more time to your trip, but you won’t be tempted to take your seatbelt off on the interstate.
4. Bring a map
If you’re heading to an unfamiliar area, bring a map. GPS isn’t perfect, and you might not be able to access it at all if you don’t have any cell signal. Keep a map of the area, or better yet an up-to-date atlas, in your car as a backup. The last thing you want to do is get lost in an unfamiliar area.
5. Get a tune-up
This tip doesn’t apply if you’re using a rental car, but if you’re taking a trip in your own vehicle, make sure it’s in good running order before you head out. Get an oil change, a new air filter and have your mechanic give the car a once-over to ensure it’s not going to leave you stranded in the desert or leave you in a dangerous situation. Don’t forget to have them check and refill your spare, too!
6. Familiarize yourself with your rental
If you’re opting for a rental car before you set off, take the time to familiarize yourself with the ins and outs of your rental car. Make sure you know where the headlights, wipers, hazard lights and other features are. If you have to take your eyes off the road to find the wipers in a rainstorm, you risk getting into an accident during your trip. If you can’t find something, ask the rental agency for help before you leave the lot.
7. Fill up often
When you’re on a road trip in an unfamiliar area, you never know how far it will be to the next gas station. Fill up often, and don’t let your tank get below one-quarter full. This is especially important on the long stretches of highway that you might find in Midwestern states—you can drive for hours without seeing another living soul or gas station! Stopping occasionally for gas also helps keep you awake—the movement is good for breaking up the monotony of driving.
8. Stay off the phone
Talking on the phone when you’re behind the wheel is dangerous, whether you’re driving to the grocery store or across the country. Even talking hands-free is a form of distraction, which increases your chance of a car accident. If someone calls and you can’t call them back later, have someone else answer the phone, or pull over to take the call.
Don’t let this deter you from taking a road trip—just remember to take a few precautions so you can enjoy your road trip safely.