Summer is here and for me, and many others, that means some long road trips as part of a vacation, or getting to a family reunion. So it is a good time to review safe driving practice for long trips. Check out the list below and drive safely!
1. Make sure everyone in the car buckles his or her seatbelt. Not only will it keep you safe, but in many places it's also the law.
2. Before beginning a long drive, always get enough sleep and eat something before you go. Highly caffeinated beverages are not necessarily the best way to stay awake while driving. While initially you will feel more alert, the effects can recede with time, and your attention may wander although you remain awake.
3. Pull over and take breaks every couple of hours, even if you don't feel sleepy. Grab a snack, get some fresh air, and stretch your legs by walking around. If you need to, take a quick nap. On the subject of snacks, if you skip the fast food and go for light, healthy snacks, you'll find that you have more energy for a longer period of time. Switching out water for soda is particularly important, because while soda tastes refreshing, it can actually dehydrate you.
4. If you can, share the driving responsibilities with someone else. This will allow you to keep an eye on each other while driving and also enable you to nap without losing time. If you're driving alone, turn on the radio or put on some music, and keep your window cracked open. You may also want to refrain from using your cruise control if you're driving alone at night -- having to concentrate on maintaining your speed can help you stay awake.
5. Avoid cell phone usage while driving. Using a cell phone increases the chance of an accident by a factor of 4! (See Safety Nugget of April 22, 2015).
6. Never drink any alcohol before or during your trip. While you may not become intoxicated from one beer, you will become sleepy.
7. Clean your windshield often. When you stop to fill up your tank, take the time to clean your windshield. A cloudy windshield is a potential road hazard. It can reduce visibility, especially at certain sun angles. When you've been on the road for a few hours and your windshield is glazed with bug carcasses and dust, wiper fluid just won't cut it.
8. Sit up straight. Just by sitting up straight in your seat, you'll find that you are more awake and alert. Proper posture helps create good blood flow, and the more blood you can get to your brain the better. If you find yourself getting sleepy behind the wheel, try this: sit up as straight as you can, lower your shoulders and take a couple of deep breaths from your diaphragm. You should find yourself pleasantly awake and clear-headed.
9. Keep an eye on the skies, and if you can, plan a route around inclement weather. A minor detour could actually wind up saving you major time.
10. Before setting off on a long car trip, be sure your vehicle is in prime condition -- that tires are properly inflated, all fluids are at their proper levels and you have a full tank of gas. (For particularly long road trips, you may want to have your mechanic do a more thorough check.)
11. Pack an emergency kit. In addition to basic first aid, be prepared for unexpected breakdowns with gloves, a flashlight, and some basic hand tools.