A long drive puts a strain on the driver and the car. Plan ahead to stay safe.
Whether you’re heading to Yellowstone, Yosemite, or Grandma’s house, a summer car trip can yield amazing memories. But before you hit the road, remember: With great trips come great responsibilities. A long drive—especially into unfamiliar territory—puts extra strain on both car and driver. Fortunately, a few tips from AAA safety expert William Van Tassel can help keep the good times rolling.
Check your car
No matter if you’ll be on the road for a few hours or a few days, a well-maintained vehicle is your most important safety equipment. Have a mechanic confirm that your car is ready for the drive. Find a AAA-approved shop to do the job at AAA.com/repair, or give it a once-over yourself. Run through the summer car-care checklist at AAA.com/viaauto.
Keep your eyes open
On any long trip, staying alert behind the wheel is a top priority—and one of the biggest challenges. “Always get a good night’s sleep before a drive,” Van Tassel says, “and try to have at least one other driver ready to take over.”
Make time for breaks
“Stop to rest every two hours or 100 miles,” Van Tassel says. “Drink water, walk around, and get refreshed before you start driving again. If you get too tired, pull into a motel for the night.” Better to arrive a little later than risk a collision by nodding off at the wheel.
To keep your blood sugar up and stay hydrated, pack snacks and bottled water. Have a well-charged cell phone handy to use in case of emergencies, or bring a car charger. And don’t forget to take along a paper map or a printout of your route in case you lose GPS coverage.
Keep them cool
Never leave children or animals unattended in a hot car. Even a few minutes of heat exposure can be dangerous or fatal to smaller bodies. If you must leave kids or pets in the car for a short time, have a responsible adult stay with them to keep them safe.
Share the road
Summer weather brings out bikes, motorcycles, and pedestrians, so keep your mirrors properly adjusted and watch out for smaller vehicles that aren’t usually on your route.
Illustration by Ron Chan
This article was first published in July 2014. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.