Safe Road Trip

Did you know that every year in the month of December approximately one in four Americans will take to the roads for a holiday roadtrip? And whether that trip is to Grandma’s for that big holiday dinner or just down the street to a friend’s New Year’s party, these holiday driving excursions can be rather stressful.

In addition to the basic, commonsense rules every driver should follow at this time of year – don’t drink and drive, don’t text and drive, watch your speed and be considerate of others on the road – there are some things you can, and really should, do that can make your holiday season drives safer, more enjoyable and yes, less stressful. Here are our top five suggestions:

Schedule a Pre-Trip Checkup

A breakdown at anytime can be a nightmare, but a breakdown during holiday season when there is more traffic on the roads, the weather may be bad and tow trucks and mechanics in shorter supply can be much worse. To prevent such a fate befalling you schedule your car a holiday health checkup before you hit the road. Such a checkup should include having the condition of your tires, basic engine systems, brakes and fluid levels checked and don’t forget to have the automotive pro check your battery and heating system too.

Plan Ahead

If you will be heading off on a longer holiday road trip, plan your route in advance to avoid getting stuck in traffic jams that are headed in the wrong direction anyway. As the roads are likely to be far busier than normal you should also consider adding a live traffic GPS like Google’s Waze to your smartphone.

Not only is Waze a great GPS but it shows, in real time, where the traffic foul ups are occurring, how long they are likely to delay you, the locations of accidents, road hazards, speed traps, checkpoints and more. It’s available free for both iOS and Android and is certainly worth a download but you should also plan to take along an old fashioned map book, just in case cell reception is spotty.

Be a Defensive – Not an Aggressive – Driver

Traffic jams, poor weather conditions and the general stress that can arise from having a whole family packed into a single vehicle often leads to grumpy and frustrated drivers. This mood often leads drivers to do things they might not usually. Things like cut people off, switch lanes without warning, travel too fast for the road conditions, tailgate and even just generally abuse other drivers.

Don’t be a grumpy driver. Practice those defensive driving skills and let it go when an aggressive driver jumps the (long) queue or flips a finger at you for no apparent reason.

Be Prepared for an Emergency

Hopefully your holiday roadtrip will progress just fine but you should still be prepared for an emergency. If it’s cold (or where you are headed is cold) try to keep your gas tank at least half full as that will help prevent gas line freezes. Make sure that you have basic equipment like a flashlight, flares, jumper cables, blankets, boots and maybe even a snow shovel in your trunk. And, to be on the even safer side check out local tow companies before you go, just so that if you do end up stranded on the side of the road you’ll at least know who to call.

Relax and (Try) to Be Merry

Whatever occasion you are driving to chances are that it’s supposed to be a merry, joyful one. And while it’s not always easy making a conscious effort to be a merrier, more joyful driver really will help things go far more smoothly. Frustration and anger leads to driving mistakes and poor decisions, as does tiredness, so get a good night’s sleep before you hit the road too.

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