Car Safety Tips for a Safer Road Trip

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Did you know? Of all the great recreational activities enjoyed in the United States, swimming is the fourth most popular one. After all, who doesn’t want to swim on spring break?

Even though most spring breaks have officially come to a close, some students were surprised to find that their “break” hasn’t ended. Thanks to concern over COVID-19, many children and students attending university are stuck at home for the time being. Now might be the perfect time to start planning that road trip you’ve been putting off.

Whether you’re driving to the beach, going to your favorite water park, or simply driving to visit family, car safety should be a critical concern. Spring break and warm summer months are a popular time for young adults to hit the road, but that can come with safety hazards if you’re not careful.

To help you stay safe for your future travels, we’ve compiled some top car and travel safety tips to follow. Keep reading to learn more.

Avoid Distractions

When you’re on the road, it’s imperative that you focus on the road. Anything that takes your attention away from driving, even for a second, is a distraction. Sending a text message, checking notifications, fiddling with your navigation system, or even talking on the phone are all distractions that could prove deadly.

It’s important to note that 47 out of 50 different states have already made texting while driving illegal, and using the phone while driving period is outlawed in at least 15 states. Even if the state you’re driving through doesn’t ban cell phone use on the road, you should still avoid it. Studies have demonstrated an increase in accidents while mobile devices are in use. As it is, over half of all traffic deaths happen to young adults between 15 and 44, so the odds aren’t exactly in your favor as it is. Don’t make things riskier for yourself — or your passengers — than they already are.

Inspect Your Tires

The condition of your tires is one of the biggest factors in the safety of your trip. Yet for some reason, it’s also one of the most overlooked elements. Several things can impact tire safety, including the age of your tires, the tread wear and depth, and incorrect inflation.

Even if your tires look good on the outside, if they’re older than six years, they could be hiding a serious safety hazard. Aged tires can fail unexpectedly even if their tread depth is adequate and inflation levels are good. Unfortunately, there’s little that can be done to identify a tire’s age. If you know yours haven’t been changed in the last few years, you should consider having them replaced before making a big trip.

Make sure your tires are inflated appropriately before you drive. Tires that are under-inflated can cause wear to the vehicle and decreased gas mileage, along with potentially deadly heat generation from roll resistance. On the other hand, over-inflated tires can lose their grip on the road or burst suddenly. Your tires will display the correct pressure level, or PSI, for them. The PSI can then be measured with a hand-held tire gauge.

Wear Seat Belts

Seat belts truly can save lives, but only when they’re used and fitted correctly. It’s very important that you and any passengers only use seatbelts with the three-point system, where one belt goes over the shoulder. Some older vehicles have two-point “belt only” seat belts on middle seats, but these offer less protection in a crash. Three-point seat belts are far more effective for preventing injury.

When you’re driving long distances, it can be tempting to loosen your seat belt, slipping the strap behind your back, or even take it off completely for comfort. As rough as a long road trip may be, these are things you should never, ever do. Wearing your seatbelt incorrectly can make it completely ineffective in the event of a collision.

The lap belt should fit snugly across the bony parts of your hips and pelvis. Above it, the shoulder belt should feel snug across your body at the sternum (or breast bone) and shoulder. Your seat belt should be adjusted to fit properly in this way, every time, no matter what.

Don’t Drive at Night

It’s not uncommon for vacationers to start driving in the evening, so they can reach their destination first thing the next morning. However, this puts you at serious risk, especially if you’re driving alone. Night driving comes with its own distinct set of risks from daytime driving. It’s harder to see what’s around you, it’s harder for others to see you, and everyone is more prone to drowsiness and exhaustion.

Depth perception, peripheral vision, and color recognition are all diminished at night, and tiredness can make it difficult to concentrate on the road. It’s not unheard of for drivers to fall asleep at the wheel and lose control of the vehicle.

If you absolutely must drive at night, bring a group of friends with you, and take frequent turns at the wheel. Talk with each other to keep everyone’s mood and energy up. Drive at slower speeds than you would during the day, and maintain a larger distance between you and drivers you’re following. Make frequent stops throughout your trip so you can move around and get your blood flowing. And if you find yourselves getting drowsy, you must stop driving and rest.

Be especially cautious in suburban areas and neighborhoods. Causing damage to someone’s property can be a felony if the damage is valued at more than $1,000. Besides that, there are more likely to be people walking next to roads in populated areas, so you must be careful to avoid hurting anyone.

Do Not Recline Your Seat

It’s not unusual for people to recline their seats back in the middle of a long road trip. After all, isn’t that what reclining seats are for?

While reclining seats are convenient for resting during a brief stop in a parking lot, it is dangerous to lean your seat back while driving. And that doesn’t just apply to the driver — reclining your seat completely eliminates any benefit the seat belt would offer in a crash. Reclining allows there to be more space between your body and the seat belt, so if the car were to stop suddenly as in a collision, you could become injured from the edge of the belt digging into your body. Otherwise, you might “submarine” underneath the seat belt, and slide forward into the front of the car.

Obviously, either one of these occurrences could cause serious harm. Avoid injury to yourself and your passengers, and don’t recline the seats while the car is moving.

No matter where you’re going this year, the last thing you want is for you or a loved one to be hospitalized for careless driving. Follow these tips to the letter to avoid hurting yourself or others while you travel.