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How can I Drive Safely on a Long Road Trip?

July 7, 2021

long road trip

Coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions are now easing, and the warmer summer weather will entice people out onto the roads to enjoy trips to see friends and family. Those who still do not feel safe flying will consider making road trips to destinations they normally would have only visited by plane.

Most roads trips are uneventful, however, just one car accident can alter the lives of everyone involved, so it makes sense to review safety tips before leaving home on a long road trip. Listed below are important safety tips for road travel.

Prepare Well Ahead of Time

The best road trips are well planned and not thrown together quickly. Putting some thought into travel pays off and helps to avoid unsafe situations. The best example of this is preparing the vehicle.

Preparing the vehicle has to be done ahead of time in case safety checks uncover a problem that needs time to be fixed. Maybe the mechanic’s schedule is booked or maybe a part needs to be ordered. Allow time for these scenarios so that there are no delays at the start of the trip or down the road.

There are some basic things that need to be checked on every vehicle before any road trip:

  • Tires: Use a pressure gauge to check tire pressure when tires are cold. Correct tire pressure is essential for safety and also for fuel efficiency. Check the treads on the tires to make sure they are not worn down or uneven. A penny can be used to measure tire treads. Insert a penny head first into the tread grooves, and look for the top of Lincoln’s head. If the top of Lincoln’s head is visible, then the treads are shallow and worn. Part of Lincoln’s head should always be covered.
  • Brakes: Noisy brakes, vibrations while braking, pulling to one side, and a soft unresponsive brake pedal are all indications that brakes are in need of service. A mechanic can measure the thickness of the brake pads and check for stuck calipers.
  • Windshield Wipers: Check for worn or bent blades and replace them if needed. Visibility on a long road trip is crucial for safety.
  • Fluid Levels: Brake fluid, power steering fluid, coolant fluid, transmission fluid, and windshield wiper fluid are all components that need to be checked and topped off before hitting the road.
  • Battery: Many trips have been sabotaged by a battery that fails. It is best to replace an old battery before a long road trip.
  • Air Conditioning: Have the air conditioning system serviced to ensure the trip will be comfortable. The system should be flushed out periodically, seals checked, and recharged.

Be Prepared for Emergencies

Every vehicle should have emergency supplies, including:

  • Flashlight with extra batteries
  • First aid kit
  • Jumper cables
  • Phone charger
  • Cables
  • Flares
  • Blankets
  • Extra food and water

A spare tire should be along for the drive, as well as the tools to install it.

Stow Loose Objects

In the event of a sudden stop or accident, anything that is loose becomes a projectile within the vehicle. For that reason, all heavy item, such as strollers and suitcases, should be stored as low as possible and then secured. Check seats for any loose objects and store them away.

Avoid Distracted Driving

Distracted driving is the enemy of road safety at any time, but on a long road trip, distractions will be plentiful and behaviors will be different than on a short-distance trip. On a short trip, there may be no need to eat in the car, but most likely, it cannot be avoided at some point during a long trip. Anything that takes the driver’s attention away from the act of driving qualifies as a distraction, including:

  • Eating and drinking
  • Talking with passengers
  • Changing the radio station
  • Programming a navigation system
  • Texting or talking on a cellphone
  • Putting on makeup
  • Changing clothes
  • Disciplining children

Anyone who has been on a long road trip has probably experienced some or all of these behaviors. It is important to minimize distractions to the driver as much as possible.

Plan the trip route beforehand and program navigation while still parked. Keep all necessary items within easy reach. Prepare snacks that are easy to grab, and eat and designate another person to deal with any passenger issues. Never try to text and drive, and stow phones away to avoid the temptation to use them. Turn on Do Not Disturb mode so that friends and family realize it is safer to talk later.

Be Well Rested for the Trip

Drowsy driving is extremely dangerous. Every year, many accidents are caused by drowsy driving. In many studies, sleep deprived drivers perform in much the same way as drunk drivers. Reaction time is slowed, coordination is poorer, and the driver’s ability to pay attention, make good decisions, judge traffic, and be vigilant are all negatively affected.

It is easy to get sleepy while driving for long stretches, so it is that much more important to start the trip well rested. The night before, be sure to get a good night’s sleep. During the day, try to switch drivers if possible, or plan for breaks every few hours so that no one portion of the trip is too long. During breaks, try to eat a nutritious snack and do stretches. Do not forget to stay hydrated as dehydration can make one feel sleepy. If it becomes impossible to stay awake for any reason while driving, pull over immediately to take a nap and rest before continuing.

Stay Alert and Drive Defensively

On a long road trip, it is natural to start to relax and be less vigilant, but the opposite should be the case. The driver must be alert at all times for hazards, such as tailgaters, aggressive drivers, teenage drivers, large trucks with oversize loads, and pedestrians or cyclists on local roads. The more time spent out on the road, the greater the chance of encountering a sudden obstacle, like debris, an animal that runs into the road, or a truck that loses control and overturns.

Defensive driving tactics include:

  • Keeping a generous amount of following distance to the car in front and allowing more space to account for hazardous road conditions.
  • Checking mirrors and blind spots often.
  • Avoid driving in another car or truck’s blind spots.
  • Scanning the road ahead and keeping an eye on the surrounding traffic.
  • Driving the speed limit.
  • Using turn signals to alert other drivers.
  • Using caution at intersections.
  • Watching out for hazards and strategizing to avoid them.
  • Giving other cars space to change lanes and maneuver.
  • Avoid braking suddenly.

Staying safe on a long road trip may seem daunting, but with good preparation and defensive driving behaviors, traveling to a destination can be a fun and rewarding. If a car accident does happen, the victim may have legal options.

Virginia Beach Car Accident Lawyers Advocate for Those Injured by Negligent Drivers During Road Trips

It is important to practice defensive driving during a long road trip. If you have been injured in a car accident during a road trip, speak to a Virginia Beach car accident lawyer. At East Coast Trial Lawyers, we will evaluate your case and advise you on the next best step. Call us at 757-352-2237 or contact us online for a free consultation. We are conveniently located in Virginia Beach, Virginia, and we represent clients throughout Chesapeake, Eastern Shore, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, Portsmouth, and Suffolk, Virginia, as well as North Carolina and nationwide.

Areas We Serve

Our law firm proudly serves clients injured anywhere in Virginia or North Carolina on personal injury claims, including cases with traumatic brain injury, spinal and neck injury, wrongful death, and more serious injuries. As Virginia Beach personal injury attorneys with many years experience, our team of lawyers will be ready to fight for you. If you were injured on the job, our Virginia Beach Workers Compensation lawyers are ready to serve you.

Call 757-352-2237 or fill out the online contact form for a free consultation about your personal injury, workers compensation, or other attorney services. Our firm adopts a team approach to every case, so while one primary lawyer will be assigned to your case, you have the benefit of an experienced team of lawyers, all working on your side. We are located in Virginia Beach, VA, and serve clients who were injured anywhere in Virginia or North Carolina.

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Virginia Beach VA 23452
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