Holiday travel safety

Road trip tips to help you arrive safe and sound

AAA forecasts that more than one-third of Americans will travel this holiday season, with more than 100 million people expected to pack up their cars for road trips. Whether they’re headed to Disney World or grandmother’s house, that’s a lot of cars on the road at the same time – and for a long time, as the Bureau of Transportation Statistics says, the average holiday road trip length is 275 miles.

Follow these tips to help keep safe on the road this holiday season.

Before you leave

  • Keep a bundle of gear in your car, such as extra food and water, clothing, a flashlight, blankets, medications and more.
  • Check your tires to make sure they’re properly inflated and have plenty of tread.
  • Keep at least half a tank of fuel in your vehicle at all times.
  • Get a tune-up and have your battery, belts, fluids, and air conditioner/heater checked by a qualified mechanic.
  • Check the weather along your route and, when possible, delay your trip if bad weather is expected.
  • Notify others and let them know your route, destination and estimated time of arrival.
  • Get a good night's sleep. According to the National Highway Travel Safety Administration, driving while drowsy is a contributing factor in 100,000 accidents annually. Drive only when well rested.

On the road

  • If you’re traveling through or to an area with snow or ice, drive slowly to account for lower traction and increase your following distance to five to six seconds to give yourself a greater margin of safety if you have to stop.
  • Use your brakes properly. Keep the heel of your foot on the floor and use the ball of your foot to apply firm, steady pressure on the brake pedal.
  • Adjust your posture. Make a conscious effort to sit up straight, because slouching while driving can make you drowsy. Bend your legs so you can exert strong pressure on the brake pedal, and bend your elbows so you can use all your strength to turn the wheel if necessary.
  • Break up the trip. Every two hours, switch drivers or take a quick pit stop. Drink water: Not only will it force you to take bathroom breaks, giving you valuable respites, but staying hydrated will also help keep you more alert.
  • Ignore phone calls. Even if you’re hands-free, talking on the phone is dangerous. The region of the brain that processes moving images decreases its activity by up to one-third when you’re listening to the other side of the line (more on distracted driving).

If you get stuck

  • Stay with your vehicle. It provides temporary shelter and makes it easier for rescuers to locate you.
  • Signal your presence. Tie a brightly colored cloth to the antenna of your vehicle or place a cloth at the top of a rolled-up window to signal distress. At night, keep the dome light on if possible: It only uses a small amount of electricity and will make it easier for rescuers to find you.
  • Clear the exhaust pipe of any blockage. A blocked pipe can cause deadly carbon monoxide gas to leak into the passenger compartment of the vehicle while the engine is running.

Following these guidelines will help you safely enjoy wherever the road takes you. For more driving tips this holiday season and all year round, check out HMDrive, our new safe-driving mobile app.

Sources: AAA, Parents magazine

Visit the HMConnection page to read more articles

WBTL-0794 (Dec. 19)

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