- Don’t drive distracted. There are a variety of things that have the potential to distract drivers from the road during a road trip. Some of them are controllable (radio volume, for example), while some of them are less easily managed (e.g. a crying infant). But taking charge over the distractions that you can control will make your road trip significantly safer. First, remember to never ever use a cell phone while driving. That means no texting, obviously, but according to the National Safety Council, talking on a cell phone while driving is also extremely dangerous, even if you’re using a hands-free device. Likewise, if you are using a navigation app on your phone or a separate GPS, keep it out of your hands and out of the way. If you have no passengers, you can secure the device in an easily viewable area on your dashboard, but you should never try to make route changes or perform searches while driving. If possible, you should have a designated trip “navigator” and this individual can be in charge of the GPS while on the road.
- Be aware of local road and driving laws. If your road trip will take you across state lines, be aware that the rules of the road very well may change as soon as you cross the border. For example, most states have their own rules regarding cell phone use while on the road. Some states allow talking on phones while driving, while others require hand-free devices, and still others prohibit anyone from using a phone while operating a motor vehicle. To avoid any unpleasant surprises or tickets, it’s best to closely observe the signage at state borders and on unfamiliar roadways.
- The driver and all passengers should wear seat belts at all times. This should be the rule in your car whenever you take a trip, even if it is just down the street or to the supermarkets. You should also make sure that seatbelts are worn properly at all times. An improperly worn seatbelt will not properly protect a person in case of an accident. All seat belts and booster seats should be properly installed and the child should be buckled in according to the manufacturer instructions.
- Road trips usually require at least some amount of luggage. If you are packing any bags, suitcases, or boxes inside the car, make sure that you strap down or secure them. Place heavy items at the bottom of piles, and as close to the floor as possible. If you have to make a sudden stop or are in a crash, heavy objects can become projectiles and seriously injure people in the car.
Check back for part three of our winter safety series on road trips for helpful tips and tricks to keep you and your family safe.