Heading on a Road Trip? Stay Safe by Following These Five Tips

From important vehicle inspections to assembling an on-the-go emergency kit and more, an expert shares their insight.

Summer is officially here, and that means that so many of us will set out on a road trip. "Road trips have always been a popular way to travel but they have really become the preferred method in the pandemic," says Ellen Edmonds of American Automobile Association (AAA). "Road trips are giving people a way to take a vacation at a time when travel has been more limited."

Whether you're setting out on a weekend-long getaway in your home state or a cross-country drive, Edmonds says it pays to take certain precautions before you hit the open road. "The quickest way to ruin a road trip is to end up stranded with a breakdown or arrive at your destination only to find it's closed due to the pandemic," she explains. "Planning ahead is key to making sure you have the best and safest trip possible."

family in car on roadtrip
Marko Geber / Getty Image

And taking proper safety measures are equally—if not more—important. What kinds of things should you be doing to ensure your next road trip goes smoothly? Ahead, Edmonds shares her choice road-trip planning tips.

Inspect your vehicle.

Before any long road trip, Edmonds says it's crucial to get your car checked out. "AAA recommends getting a vehicle inspection to check key components like the battery, engine, brakes, and fluid levels," she explains. "Most repair facilities will perform an inspection free of charge during routine services like oil changes or tire rotations, or you can opt to have an inspection done for a small fee, which may be waived if any work needs to be done."

If you prefer to inspect your vehicle yourself, Edmonds says there are a few extra steps you should take. "You will also want to make sure all of the vehicle fluids are topped off, check your windshield wiper blades to see if they need replacing, make sure your headlights and blinkers are working properly and make sure your tires are properly inflated and there is no visible damage," she advises.

Check your tire treads.

Along with checking that your battery, engine, brakes, and fluid levels all look good, Edmonds says it's important to check the treads of your tires with a quarter before driving a long distance. "Insert a quarter into your tire tread with Washington's head down and if you can see the top of his head, it's time to buy new tires," she explains. "You should always make sure your tires are in good working order before hitting the road, since tires that are worn or damaged could create a safety risk."

Assemble an emergency kit.

Having certain travel essentials on hand is key to a worry-free road trip. "Always pack an emergency kit that includes a car charger, flashlight with extra batteries, jumper cables, basic toolkit, tarp/raincoat, rags/paper towels, reflective triangles, first-aid kit, and drinking water and snacks," Edmonds advises. "Also, make sure you have some kind of roadside assistance in case your car breaks down, because even a vehicle that passes its inspection with flying colors could run into trouble on the road."

As with any trip, Edmonds says you'll also want to make sure you don't leave home without your medical insurance cards, necessary prescriptions, and emergency contact phone numbers. "The best way to deal with an emergency that might arise is to be prepared," she explains.

Plan your route (and stops) ahead of time.

Before embarking on any length of road trip, Edmonds says it pays to be proactive about navigation. "Determine the route you will take, what stops you'll make along the way, what attractions you'd like to see, and then check to see if there are any related closures or restrictions," she advises. "It's also good to know where the fueling/recharging options are along your route as well as rest stops and dining, so you have a plan if you start to get hungry, run low on fuel, or just need a break from driving."

Don't drive when you're tired (or distracted).

No matter how excited (or behind schedule) you may be along the way, Edmonds says it's imperative not to drive when you feel drowsy. "Do all you can to prevent becoming drowsy during a road trip," she advises. "Get plenty of sleep before the trip, travel at times when you are normally awake, and schedule fun pit stops every two hours or 100 miles." It's also important to keep your eyes on the road—and not your phone or GPS system—when you drive. "Drive distraction-free," advises Edmonds. "Designate a co-pilot and don't text or engage in activities that will distract you while driving."

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