Keep sum­mer road trips safe

The Trentonian (Trenton, NJ) - - LIVING -

When the out­doors beck­ons, road trips can be the per­fect way to see the coun­try­side, es­cape the rou­tine of daily life and en­joy short va­ca­tions.

When tak­ing to the open road, it is im­por­tant to fo­cus on safety. The Na­tional High­way Traf­fic Safety Ad­min­is­tra­tion says that plan­ning and pre­ven­tion can spare road-trip­pers from the con­se­quences of break­downs, traf­fic ac­ci­dents or other road emer­gen­cies.

• Stock emer­gency pre­pared­ness items. Prior to a trip, driv­ers should make sure their ve­hi­cles are equipped with nec­es­sary safety items. Lib­erty Mu­tual In­sur­ance New Be­gin­nings Re­port warns that nearly half of Amer­i­cans do not check that proper emer­gency items are stored in their ve­hi­cles prior to get­ting on the road. Be­fore em­bark­ing on a road trip, make sure ve­hi­cles have a first aid kit, flash­light, wa­ter bot­tles, phone charg­ers, tire-re­pair tools, flares, jumper ca­bles, tow­els, and even an old back­pack for stor­age.

• Sched­ule a ser­vice call. Reg­u­lar main­te­nance can keep ve­hi­cles from break­ing down. Driv­ers should take their cars in for tune­ups be­fore long road trips. Such tune­ups should in­clude an oil change, bat­tery check, tire ro­ta­tion, and any other nec­es­sary ser­vic­ing.

• Plan your route. Map out the route be­fore head­ing out. Be aware of po­ten­tial road clo­sures, ob­sta­cles or con­struc­tion. Thanks to real-time GPS up­dates through mo­bile phones and other de­vices, some driv­ers like to rely on tech to get them through. But it’s im­por­tant to re­al­ize ser­vice may be spotty in ru­ral ar­eas. Map­ping a trip out in ad­vance can save driv­ers from get­ting lost dur­ing mo­bile ser­vice in­ter­rup­tions.

• Join a roadside re­pair ser­vice. Break­downs hap­pen even if trips are care­fully planned. Au­to­mo­tive clubs can help driv­ers when break­downs oc­cur. Some car man­u­fac­tur­ers also in­clude roadside as­sis­tance in war­ranty pack­ages, so in­quire about your cov­er­age.

• Re­fresh de­fen­sive driv­ing skills. A safedriv­ing course can re­mind driv­ers of the rules of the road. In some cases, cour­ses also may qual­ify driv­ers for dis­counts on their auto in­sur­ance poli­cies. One such class is the AARP Driver Safety course.

• Avoid dis­trac­tions. Keep chil­dren and other pas­sen­gers oc­cu­pied so they are not a dis­trac­tion to the driver. Set out with fa­vorite mu­sic, books, video games, or even a pad and paper for doo­dling. Pack snacks to keep ev­ery­one feel­ing full in be­tween roadside pit stops. Driv­ers also can load their cars up with tis­sues, wa­ter and mu­sic to limit dis­trac­tions.

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