While the late days of winter and early days of spring aren't exactly ideal road trip weather, sometimes a long trip in the car is inevitable. No matter what time of year you travel, don't end your trip with an accident and potential injuries. If you're driving long distances, whether this month or in the near future, consider taking these safety tips into account before you begin your journey.
Get Your Beauty Rest
The night before a trip or vacation, it's vital to get a good night's sleep so you are ready for your long drive. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), driving while drowsy was responsible for 72,000 crashes and over 800 deaths in 2013, which are believed to be low estimates. When you're tired, you have slower reaction times, are more likely to swerve into other lanes and can even fall asleep at the wheel. Don't let that happen to you. Plan to sleep 6-8+ hours before your trip.
If you notice you're beginning to become tired while driving, (yawning, hitting the rumble strip or closing your eyes repeatedly) it's best to get off the road immediately. Stop at the next rest area or gas station to stretch your legs, try drinking water, coffee or soda with caffeine and see if that makes you more alert. If these don't help, it is best to switch drivers or stop for the evening.
Pack Your Car Emergency Kit
Many drivers aren't aware of what to include in their car emergency kit. While it may change depending on what time of year it is, here are some general recommendations to include:
- Fleece blankets
- Water (in bags or bottles)
- Spare phone charger
- First-Aid kit
- Flashlights w/ extra batteries
- Orange cones or reflectors
- Jumper cables
- An extra coat
- Cat litter
All of these items will help you if you get stranded in colder climates, a passenger has a minor injury, need to change a tire or jump start your car.
Take Your Car in for Tune Up
Before you leave for your trip, check your tires for adequate pressure and tire tread depth. Many gas stations offer free air for your tires, but it's best to bring your own tire pressure gauge, which is always good to have on hand (and can be purchased for less than $10). You can even bring your car to a qualified mechanic to check the tires, oil, brakes, etc. This will give you an added peace of mind as you drive and regular check-ups are good for car safety regardless.
Double Check Car and Booster Seats
Even if you think you have successfully installed a car seat or booster seat, you can always rest easy by getting it officially inspected. Safe Kids Lincoln-Lancaster County Child Passenger Safety Task Force also offers monthly car seat checks each month. If you're unsure what regulations or types of car and booster seats that will best fit your family, visit the NHTSA website.