If there is one silver lining to the pandemic, it’s that it encouraged people to explore their backyards more. Short day trips and week-long road trips became more common than booking flights for country-hopping trips on the other side of the world.
While international travel is becoming possible again, many have learned to love a slower form of travel, such as road trips. However, road-tripping requires a level of self-sufficiency that isn’t needed in other types of travel. To be self-sufficient, you also have to be safe.
If you’re planning a road trip, make sure you factor the following safety precautions and preparations into your plans.
Safety precautions before the trip
Inspect your vehicle
The reliability of your vehicle is paramount on a road trip. You’ll need your vehicle to cover large distances each day, through different weather conditions and different times of the day. You may also need your vehicle for accommodation if you’re planning to camp.
To make sure your vehicle is in the best shape possible, make sure you check these components before heading out and make the necessary repairs:
- Check the battery, headlights, taillights, turn signals, coolant level, oil life, belts, hoses, wiper blades, and air conditioning.
- Ensure tires have enough tread and pressure. If they’re at the end of their life, focus on finding the best tires out there to replace your existing set.
- Check for recalls on your vehicle by searching the VIN.
Learn how to change a tire
If it’s been a while or you never learned in the first place, now is the time to make sure you know how to change a tire quickly and safely.
Depending on your destination, you may find yourself without cell service at certain points along the trip. This means you’ll have no one to ask for help if you get a flat tire. Watch some YouTube videos on changing a tire and practice before you head out onto the road.
Pack roadside assistance tools
In addition to having a spare tire and a jack to replace a flat, you’ll want to have a roadside assistance kit to help you stay safe when the unexpected happens. A roadside assistance kit should contain the following:
- Jumper cables
- First aid kit
- Two days of non-perishable food
- Extra water
- Cell phone car charger and spare battery
- Candles and matches
Upgrade your cell phone plan
You never want to rely on your cell phone when you’re on a road trip, but chances are you’ll want to use it to make calls, stay in contact with family and friends, and use the GPS feature to help map your route and avoid construction and road accidents.
To make sure you have enough data, upgrade your cell phone plan for the month you plan to be away. If you’re seeing Europe by car and road-tripping across several countries, you’ll want to make sure you can use roaming or have purchased a new pay-as-you-go SIM card.
Pack paper maps
In the case that you run out of cell phone battery or enter an area without reception, you’ll want to make sure you have paper maps to fall back on.
Not only are paper maps an important safety precaution, but they’ll give you a sense of nostalgia for the good old days as well.
Know where you’re going
Spontaneity is a great quality to have, but it has its time and place. It’s never a good idea to go on a road trip without a destination planned. A list of the best American road trips is a great place to start planning.
Make sure you know where you’re going to sleep each night and make accommodations ahead of time. Sometimes plans change, but having a solid plan with a little room for spontaneous sightseeing along the way will keep you safe.
Safety precautions during the trip
Get adequate rest
Despite your best intentions, plans will inevitably change and require you to adapt. If you run into traffic or adverse weather that puts you behind schedule, you don’t have to keep pushing toward your planned destination for the day.
If you’re struggling to keep your eyes open, try to take turns driving with your partner. At the end of the day, if you’re both too tired to concentrate on the road, modify your plans and pull into the parking lot of the next hotel you see.
Keep an eye on the weather
When you cover great distances in a short period of time, the weather can change unexpectedly. To know what you’re driving into, check the weather at regular intervals on your phone. You can also tune in to local FM radio stations.
If you’re not comfortable driving through adverse weather, stop until it passes over or look for an alternate (albeit possibly less direct) route to take.
Wear your seatbelt
Wearing a seatbelt should be a given, but you may be surprised to learn that nearly 10 percent of Americans don’t buckle up.
To combat fatigue from sitting in the vehicle for hours at a time, make regular stops to walk around and grab a bite to eat. Taking your seatbelt off to get more comfortable isn’t an option.
Safety precautions after the trip
Check the vehicle for damage
After traveling so many miles, your car may be ready for servicing again. Check the tires to make sure the air pressure level is still safe and replace any cracked or broken glass.
Keep some supplies in the vehicle
That roadside assistance kit isn’t just useful for road trips; it can be life-saving during your day-to-day driving as well. You never know when you’ll need a first aid kit or booster cables.
Reminisce about your memories
While not necessarily a safety tip, make sure you take the time to talk about all the wonderful experiences you had on your road trip. The best thing about travel is the memories it makes and the closeness it creates between travel companions.
By following the safety tips in this guide, your memories of your road trip are sure to all be positive.
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