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← Back to ‘The Do’s and Don’ts of Cross-Country Travel`

Summer is the perfect season for road trips but more time on the road equates to more time for something to go wrong. Follow these five tips to increase your odds of staying safe and enjoying the best road trip ever!

#1 – Make Sure Your Car Is Roadworthy-unsplash.jpg
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1. Make Sure Your Car Is Roadworthy

When’s the last time the oil was changed? If you’re close to needing that service again, get it done. Check your tire pressure and adjust as necessary, make sure your tread is good, and figure out where your spare tire is and test its air pressure.

If you’ve noticed strange sounds in your vehicle, get them checked out. Plenty of horror stories exist about avoiding investigating a clunking sound in the truck in hopes that by ignoring it, it will go away — and then the transfer case explodes, on the Interstate, in heavy traffic. These types of stories lead to dangerous situations and put serious — and expensive — dampeners on your road trip plans.

If you’re not confident your vehicle is safe for a long trip, you’ll be better off renting.

We also recommend checking your:

  • fluids (oil, transmission, breaks, etc)
  • tires
  • battery
  • air filter
  • lights and indicators
  • wipers
  • undercarriage for leaks or anything out of the normal

Most auto mechanics will offer a package for a comprehensive inspection.

#2 - Get Adequate Rest-unsplash.jpg
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2. Get Adequate Rest

Pack your bags a couple of days early so you’re not up half the night before you leave, getting ready. Keep a notebook by your bed to write down any last minute items that come to mind during the night so you don’t stay up thinking about them.

Sleep deprivation leads to driving behavior similar to that of a drunk driver. The CDC lists a few of the driving behaviors that indicate you’re too drowsy to be driving, and they include:

  • Excessive blinking and/or yawning
  • Having no memory of the past few miles
  • Drifting into another lane or the shoulder

Avoid drowsy driving in the first place by getting adequate sleep before a trip. If you notice these signs while you’re driving, pull over and take a short nap.

Plan your route and make hotel reservations. Road trips that aren’t planned ahead meant that when you’re ready to stop for the night, the city or town may have all the rooms booked. A little forward planning can prevent the dangerous, drowsy driving that follows. Often, you can cancel hotel reservations by 5:00 pm with no penalty. If you’re making good time and think you can travel further than you planned, you may not be locked into stopping.

#3 - Learn How to Use Your Vehicle’s Media Interface-unsplash.jpg
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3. Learn How to Use Your Vehicle’s Media Interface

Most newer cars are equipped with Bluetooth and GPS. Learn how to use these features. Often the steering wheel offers shortcut buttons. If you’re unfamiliar with your system, it will cause a distraction.

If your car isn’t equipped with Bluetooth, get one before your trip and learn how to use it.

In 2016, 3,450 lives were lost due to distracted driving. Some states have bans on all hand-held cell phone use in an attempt to curb distracted driving. This map provides a quick visualization of the cell phone laws in each state. Many cities have enacted hand-held bans even when the state as a whole has not implemented the law.

Know the laws of where you’re traveling before you start your road trip.

#4 - Plan Your Route-unsplash.jpg
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4. Plan Your Route 

Research your route and take into account construction and weather. Often, a two-lane road can provide a welcome change of scenery from the Interstate and sometimes you can even cut off miles by taking a less traveled road.

If the forecast calls for rain, though, two-lane roads can be a nightmare. You could get stuck behind a slow-moving semi that is splashing so much water up, you can’t see around it. If inclement weather is forecasted, try to stick to the main highways.

Before your trip, consider downloading the Waze app, especially if your route takes you through major cities. Instead of leaving you stuck overheating in summer traffic, Waze can re-route you around the jam.

Use an atlas or a paper map to plan your route and bring those maps along as a backup to your GPS. Paper maps won’t lose signal or lose power. They also give you the big picture of your trip rather than the turn-by-turn picture you get with a GPS.

Every once in a while a GPS will take you somewhere you didn’t want to go, but if you have a good idea of your route from your physical map, you will realize sooner rather than later when the GPS isn’t directing you correctly.

#5 - Secure All Items-unsplash.jpg
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5. Secure Passengers and Other Items 

Unrestrained objects (including passengers) can cause severe injury during a crash.

  • In a 50 mph crash, a 16-ounce water bottle can hit an occupant with the same force as a 21-pound object.
  • If a passenger is not wearing a seatbelt, they can become a dangerous flying object in a crash and studies have estimated the driver’s risk of death increases by 25 percent if a passenger is unrestrained.
  • Even an object as small as a cell phone can deal a significant blow.

Store luggage in the trunk, or, depending on your vehicle, under a cargo safety net. Keep smaller loose items secured in a compartment unless the item can be placed in a secure clip-in location.

Remember, if you are planning a road trip, the time you take to ensure your safety before your trip will certainly pay off in keeping you safe on the road by preventing dangerous situations. Be smart, be prepared, and enjoy your road trip!


About the author – Melanie Musson is the managing editor at and has two and a half years’ experience in the insurance field. She loves traveling, camping, and spending time in the outdoors with her family.

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