Summer is traditionally the time to hit the road in search of fun and adventure, and this summer will be no exception. A recent survey found that more than 70 percent of Americans plan to travel this Fourth of July weekend. The survey also found that cars will be the preferred mode of transportation. This summer will be the summer of road trips!
Road trips are fun and a good way to build lasting memories for families, friends, couples, and others. However, road trips also bring a high risk of car accidents. Following these summer road trip safety tips will help your trip go smoothly.
Why Road Trips Can Be Dangerous
Several factors make road trips more dangerous than our everyday routes.
- Lack of familiarity. When you’re driving in your own town, you know to avoid that pothole on Ninth Street. However, a new road means new detours, changing speed limits, unfamiliar terrain (like mountains), and different weather conditions.
- A bigger load. Most of us don’t use luggage racks or trailer hitches in our hometowns. But adding extra items – whether on the top or the rear – changes the dynamics of driving.
- A different vehicle. If you’ve rented a car, it may take more time to become familiar with its unique functions. If you usually drive a car but you rent an RV, camper, or other road trip vehicle, it may take more time to adjust to the new size and speed of the larger machine.
- Passengers. Sitting next to a distracting person on an airplane is annoying, but it can be downright dangerous on a road trip. Unfortunately, some passengers – such as children – are distracting even when they’re not trying to be.
- More distractions. Distractions such as fiddling with your GPS, getting lost, talking on the phone, and daydreams borne of the boredom of driving for hours are more common on long trips.
- Fatigue. Safe driving requires focus and coordination. Sleepy drivers have neither. Yet, hitting the road after late nights partying or packing – coupled with the pressure to reach a destination by a certain time – can push people to drive when they should be resting.
Summer Road Trip Safety Tips: Before you Leave
The factors above prove that road trips bring risks. But these risks can be minimized. Following these safety tips before you hit the road will help make your trip a safe one.
- Check your vehicle. Safe trips start with safe cars. Take your car in for a tune-up before your trip. This will not only keep you safe, but it can also prevent a costly breakdown on the road.
- Check your insurance. Even if you think you are familiar with your policy, it’s a good idea to review it before a trip. Pay special attention to coverage amounts and whether roadside assistance is included. If you are renting, it’s wise to choose the additional rental insurance or see if your credit card will provide coverage.
- Plan your route. Plan ahead for meals, fuel, and other necessary stops. If you have multiple drivers, plan when the drivers will switch. If there is only one driver, plan for the driver’s breaks.
- Research your route. Look for active construction or other events that might pose driving challenges. Look for points of interest that might be good places for stretch breaks.
- Get sleep. Make sure the first driver gets a full night’s sleep the night before the trip. Never let a sleepy person drive.
- Secure car seats. Nearly two-thirds of car seats are installed incorrectly. Make sure your child’s car seat is properly installed before hitting the road.
- Double-check fasteners. Check and re-check to make certain that anything tied or connected to your vehicle is securely attached.
- Pack an emergency kit. This kit should include:
- A spare car charger that does not need your car’s engine
- Water and shelf-stable snacks
- Jumper cables
- A flashlight
- A rain poncho
- A blanket
- A first aid kit
Safety Tips While You’re Driving
Once you’re behind the wheel, these summer road trip safety tips will reduce the risk of an accident.
- Wear your seatbelt. The CDC found that seatbelts reduce the risk of death by 45 percent and reduce the risk of injury by 50 percent. Seatbelts save lives. Use them and require all passengers to do so as well.
- Pay attention. While distracted driving is never a good idea, driving distracted in an unfamiliar area is a recipe for disaster.
- Fill ‘er up. Some people drive around for miles long after the gas needle hits “E.” But on a road trip, the nearest gas station might be miles and miles away. Try to keep at least your tank at least a quarter full at all times.
- Don’t eat behind the wheel. This is an unnecessary distraction. Saving a few minutes isn’t worth the extra danger created by taking your eyes off the road.
- Don’t drink and drive. This should go without saying but drinking and driving don’t mix. Don’t drive after drinking alcohol or taking drugs.
Bonus tip: What to do if You Get in An Accident on Your Trip
Accidents are never convenient, but they are even more inconvenient when they interrupt the fun of a road trip. The good news is that for the most part, the steps you take during a vacation accident are the same as the steps you would follow after an accident at home. You should get the names of witnesses, take pictures of the scene, and seek medical care.Triple-check the accuracy of the witnesses’ information because after you return home, it will be more difficult for you to obtain this information later.
One difference might arise if you’ve rented a car. If you’ve rented a car, do not tell the other driver that it’s a rental. (They might try to file a claim with the rental company’s insurance and this might cause trouble for you later.) However, you should contact the car rental company and tell them what happened.
Talk to us about Summer Road Trip Safety Tips!
We hope that you’ll find these safety tips useful. If you’re injured during a summer road trip – or at any other time of the year – contact Collins Law, LLC. Our team is committed to providing accurate legal advice and the highest level of customer service. Contact us today at 205-588-1411 or click here to schedule a free consultation.