Oh, America—the land of the free and home of the world’s best road trips. Whether you’re planning on heading South on the 101 all the way to LA, taking the kids to that national park you’ve always dreamt of seeing, or heading to grandma’s house in Idaho, the most important thing is to make it there safely. The next time you’re gearing up to take the scenic route, follow these 10 tips for the ultimate safe road trip:
1. Get a tune-up before hitting the road.
You’re about to put in some serious miles on your wagon, so make sure it’s running smoothly before you get going. You should have your tires, battery, belts, fluids, and air conditioner checked by a qualified mechanic before any long car trip.
2. And double-check that car seat!
A recent study showed that 95 percent of parents made some mistake when installing their infant car seat. That’s a pretty terrifying statistic and one that should make all parents want to double-check their handy work. If you’re unsure, call 866-SEAT-CHECK to find a nearby location for a free safety seat inspection.
3. Study up on your DIY car maintenance skills.
As a licensed driver, you should have a basic foundation of car care knowledge anyways, but especially before embarking on a long journey, as minor setbacks are almost sure to come up. Make sure you know how to change a spare tire, check and adjust the air pressure in your tires, and manually add wiper fluid and oil to your car’s fuel line, to keep your trip sailing smoothly.
4. Have an emergency plan.
A road-trip safe car should be equipped with an emergency kit, which includes: water, warm blankets, a flashlight, jumper cables, flares, tools to change a tire, a fully charged cell phone, and a first-aid kit.
Additionally, it’s smart to invest in a roadside assistance plan, such as Onstar or AAA, in case of emergency (or if you accidentally lock the keys in the car at the rest stop…)
5. Get yourself an old-fashioned map.
Despite how much we rely on them, smartphones aren’t 100 percent reliable all the time. Find yourself lost in the middle of nowhere with no service, and you’ll be singing that huge map’s praises, even after battling with it for 10 minutes to fold it back correctly.
6. Keep loose, heavy items secure.
Books or toys can become deadly projectiles during a sudden stop or accident. Same goes for larger items, like suitcases. If those are in an open cargo area, make sure they’re strapped down to prevent any potential hazards.
7. Distract the kids, so they don’t distract you.
Any kind of distraction for the driver is unsafe—and that includes your noisy backseat cargo. Make sure your kids are set up with some activities before you get going, be it a game or movie on the iPad, coloring books and puzzles, or some tried and true musical favorites coming out of the speakers.
8. Get plenty of sleep and drink lots of water.
Being well-rested and hydrated is the best way to ensure you stay awake and alert behind the wheel. Drowsy driving is extremely dangerous, so if you do feel yourself nodding off, switch up driving with another adult. If that’s not an option, check out these other tips for dealing with drowsy driving.
9. Stay off the phone.
This should be a no-brainer by now, but using your phone while driving is one of the quickest ways to put yourself at risk on the road. Even if you are hands-free, your conversation is distracting you from the potentially life-threatening task at hand, so do yourself and everyone around you a favor, and wait to respond to your cousin Steve’s text or phone call until your next pit stop.
10. You can’t overdo the rest stops.
When driving for long periods of time, it’s best to make a stop every couple of hours to keep yourself alert. Give yourself a break to walk around, grab a drink, stretch, or even do some jumping jacks to get your blood flowing.
Sinclair Broadcast Group is committed to keeping our viewers accident-free, which is why we initiated the Drive Safe campaign. Steer clear of danger with our monthly tips.