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Road trips are a wonderful and economical way to travel with your family. They allow you to see more along the journey and are full of memory making opportunities. Yet, like all forms of travel, they can be dangerous if you aren’t careful. But, never fear! From crime prevention to car maintenance, we’ve got the practical tips you need to avoid problems along the way. These simple safety tips for road trips will make your next road trip as safe as possible!
General Travel Tips
These general safety tips for road trips are practical, common sense pointers that will help prevent a variety of problems during your vacation.
1. Know your route.
It’s important when you set off on a road trip to have, at least, a general idea of the route you will be taking. This won’t prevent you from getting lost, but it will help you tell someone where you are in the event you need to call for help. It will also help you make smart decisions about when to stop for gas, meals, or for the night.
2. Don’t wait to fill up.
Speaking of gas, don’t wait until you are on empty to fill your car up with gas. Instead, stop for gas when you get around the quarter tank mark. You never know how long it will take to get to another gas station.
3. Check the weather before leaving.
No matter the season, it is always a good idea to check the weather for your route and destination before leaving on your trip. This will allow you to prepare for any inclement weather you may encounter.
4. Be aware of other cars around you.
One of the best safety tips for road trips I can give you is to always be aware of other cars around you on the road. You never know whether another driver is drunk, having mechanical issues, or is just a bad driver. Paying attention to other cars can sometimes help you to avoid a collision before it happens.
5. Always carry some cash.
It is always smart to carry some cash on you while traveling. You need to have some small bills and change in the event you find yourself on a toll road that only accepts coins. Plus, you never know when you will need to make a purchase somewhere that only accepts cash. Always better to be safe than sorry!
Crime Prevention Tips
One sure way to ruin a vacation is to become a victim of crime while traveling. To prevent this, implement these crime safety tips for road trips to keep your whole family safe.
1. Minimize stops after dark.
Most crime occurs after dark. So, to minimize your risk of becoming a victim, don’t stop more than necessary after the sun goes down. Prior to dark, stop for gas and food so you can go farther without stopping once your headlights come on.
2. Stop only at well lit locations.
If you do have to stop after dark, do so only at places that are well lit. The more light you have in a parking lot, the safer you will be. Avoid dark parking lots at all costs.
3. Park near the entrance or a light pole.
Even in well lit locations, park near the entrance or a light pole for even more security. If your car is in a spot where other people are walking or is bathed in light, you will be less likely to be ambushed by a criminal. Plus, you are more likely to see a perpetrator before it’s too late in these spots.
4. Don’t engage in road rage.
In this day and age, there are lots of people on the road suffering from road rage. For the safety of yourself and your family, don’t engage in it. If another driver lashes out at you, just keep driving and try to keep your distance from them. Whatever you do, don’t stop and get out of your car to confront them. If you can’t shake them, call 911 or look for a police or fire station or a hospital to stop at for help.
5. Don’t send kids into a store or rest stop alone.
Please don’t send kids into a store or rest stop by themselves. You never know who they may encounter in a bathroom. Believe it or not, child molesters have been known to hang out in public bathrooms waiting for children to enter alone. The last thing you want to do is to put your kids in a situation that they can’t handle on their own.
6. Don’t leave kids in the car alone.
Just like you shouldn’t send your kids into a store alone, you shouldn’t leave them in the car alone either. While you don’t want someone to steal your car, you REALLY don’t want someone stealing your car with your kids in it! Be on the safe side and take your kids with you when you get out and go in a store or rest stop, even if they are asleep.
7. Be aware of your surroundings.
Criminals always look for the easiest target. Being aware of your surroundings will send a signal that you are not the person they want to mess with. Plus, paying attention can help you notice or sense that something is wrong before it’s too late to react.
Tips to Avoid Mechanical Problems
Family road trips are great until you are stranded on the side of the road with car problems. These car maintenance tips can help you avoid that situation.
1. Have your car checked before leaving.
Before leaving for your road trip, take your car in for service. Have the tire pressure and fluid levels checked and topped off if necessary. It’s better to know that you have a problem before starting your journey than four hours into it.
2. If you notice something wrong, don’t ignore it.
Sometimes, unfortunately, the car is fine when you leave on your trip but develops a problem on the way. If you notice something isn’t right with your car, don’t ignore it. If a warning light comes on, you hear a weird noise, or it starts driving funny, pull over and check it out. You may be able to fix the problem before it becomes a major disaster.
3. Be prepared if driving in winter.
If your trip is during the winter (or during potentially inclement weather), be prepared. Pack things like a flashlight, blankets, water, a snow shovel, and other things you may need if stranded on the side of the road. Put some kitty litter in your car in case you need some extra traction to get unstuck. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has more winter driving safety tips.
4. If you don’t trust your car, rent one.
If your current car is not trustworthy enough for a road trip, rent one for your trip. While it may add an extra cost to your vacation, you will at least have peace of mind that your vehicle will last the entire time.
Tips for Physical Safety
Not only do you want to protect against crime and mechanical problems during your road trip, you also want to keep your family physically safe. The following tips will help with that.
1. Pull over if you encounter bad weather.
If, during your journey, you encounter bad weather, whether it is a thunderstorm or heavy snowfall, pull over and wait it out. It is much safer to seek shelter until the weather clears than to drive through a storm.
2. Always wear your seat belt.
Always wear your seat belt while driving. It can save your life if you are in a crash. According to NHTSA, seat belts saved almost 15, 000 lives in 2017 alone. Additionally, wearing your seat belt will set a good example for your children.
3. Make sure carseats are installed properly.
According to the American Society for the Positive Care of Children, an estimated 59% of car seats are either used or installed incorrectly. An improperly installed car seat will not protect your child in the event of a car wreck. So, to ensure the safety of your children, make sure your child’s car seat is properly installed before you leave. Contact your local police department, fire department, or hospital for help installing your car seat.
4. Always put children in car seats.
It’s not enough to install your children’s car seats properly. You must also use them while on the road. Always put your children in their car seats and buckle them correctly. Teach your kids that if the car is moving, they must wear their buckles.
5. If you need to pull over, do so in safe area.
If you need to pull over while on the road, be careful where you do so. Try to find a parking lot where you can get completely off the road to stop. If that is not possible, find a spot where you can pull far enough off the road to keep your car out of oncoming traffic and give you plenty of room to walk around the car without being on the road. Avoid pulling over near a curve or intersection. Make sure you stop in a place where you will be easily seen by other cars on the road.
6. Know your limits.
One of the most important safety tips for road trips is to know your limits when driving. Know when you are too tired to keep going. Be willing to admit when you need to take a break for food or to stretch your legs. Know when you need to let someone else drive for a little while. This one tip will not only keep you and your family safe, but it will also make the trip more enjoyable for everyone in the car.
7. Don’t drink and drive.
This last tip may go without saying, but I’m going to say it anyways. Don’t drink and drive. Save it for after you reach your final destination. When you drink and drive, even if you think you are still ok, you put your family and every other person on the road at risk. There is just no reason to do that. If you can’t wait until your road trip is over to start drinking, then let someone else drive or get a room for the night.
Road trips are a ton of fun, but they can be risky if you are not careful. The above safety tips for road trips will not only help to keep your family physically safe, they will also help prevent against mechanical problems and crime. For more travel safety tips, see safety tips for hotels. For more road trip tips, see how to pack like a pro, road trip snacks and road trip activities for kids, how to save time on road trips, and essential items for road trips with kids. Happy travels!