Travel tips for a safe and successful road trip

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Posted by peter88 from the Travel category at 20 Mar 2012 06:28:37 pm.
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A good road trip can be the ultimate spring or summer experience. With the open road ahead, life's troubles seem to melt and there's just the oneness of the driver and the road.

For a road trip to be successful, it's not just a matter of taking to the road and putting the pedal to the metal. There are a host of considerations to make, which can ensure safety and peace of mind when beginning your excursion. The hot sun that can bake the roadway -- and your body -- can also take its toll on your car, contributing to breakdowns. And there are other factors to be aware of.

Maintenance should never be overlooked when it comes to prepping for a road trip. At the least, The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends that drivers have their tires, battery, belts, fluids, and air conditioner checked by a qualified mechanic prior to starting any long trip. But the list does not stop there. There are many other precautions to heed before taking to the road.

* Be sure to have all necessary documents on hand. Nothing can stall a road trip faster than getting pulled over by a police officer and being without your license, registration and proof of insurance. These are required documents to operate a vehicle, and it's definitely worth a second check in your wallet and glove compartment to be sure they are where they should be.

* Get an oil change. Driving long intervals can be taxing on a car engine, as can the start-and-stops associated with getting stuck in road trip traffic. Do yourself and your car a favor by getting an oil change to ensure there will be proper lubrication of the engine and that thick, old motor oil won't contribute to a breakdown.

* Update your GPS. If you will be using a GPS device as your primary tool for navigation, update the device's maps before departure. Roadways are always being changed, and without downloading the proper updates, you could end up driving in circles instead of moving on to your destination. In addition, many GPS models come equipped with pinpointing points of interest, or POI, such as restaurants, tourist areas, hotels, and rest stops, which should be update before beginning the trip. Follow the guidelines spelled out in the owner's manual that comes with your GPS unit. Consumer Reports also advises knowing the local ordinances regarding GPS use. For example, a windshield-mounted unit is not allowed while driving in Minnesota.

* Plan who will drive when. A long road trip -- one that will be done primarily in one day -- could necessitate splitting up the trip between two or more drivers. Not only does this banish boredom, it also reduces the risk of driver fatigue. NHTSA estimates that approximately 100,000 police-reported crashes in the United States each year involve drowsiness and/or fatigue.
* Protect your eyes. The weather and the position of the sun could change depending on where you are driving. If you wear glasses or contacts for driving, be sure you have them with you. Keep a few pairs of sunglasses in your car to shield your eyes from sun glare. If the sun proves problematic, pull over for a little while or try an alternate route that prevents oncoming sun on the windshield. While you are packing sunglasses, also be sure to bring along -- and wear -- sunscreen, as the sun's rays can be magnified through the window glass.

* Bring along refreshments. Frequent stops for bathroom breaks and simply to stretch your legs are adviseable, but limit rest-stop fare whenever possible. Not only do these foods tend to be unhealthy, they are often expensive. Keep your road trip budget down by packing healthy food and drinks that you can enjoy on the go.

* Keep on top of your car's fuel level. Play it safe when gassing up the car. On rural roads or stretches of country with which you are unfamiliar, you never know how far away filling stations might be from one another. That means you should take the opportunity to top off the gas tank whenever you get the chance. This way you always will be confident you have enough gas to get to the next station. Don't risk coasting into your destination on fumes, unless you want to arrive at your destination hitched to a tow truck.

* Be wary of hitchhikers. Although hitchhikers are few and far between nowadays, there is still the possibility of coming across someone thumbing for a ride on the side of the road. Do not pick up a stranger who is hitchhiking, no matter how reputable the person may seem. If you come across someone who has broken down, offer to call for help instead of allowing the person into the car.

* Use the bathroom at every stop. You never know how few and far between restrooms will be. Unless the idea of a road-side pit stop is high on your list of road trip excitement, play it safe and use the restroom whenever stopping. Few things can make a stretch of road seem more interminable than the pressure of a full bladder.

* Plan for sightseeing. Part of the enjoyment of a road trip is to actually take the scenic route and enjoy roads which you may have never traveled before. This is not a race and no awards will be given out at the end for making good time. Therefore, slow down and enjoy the scenery. Isn't that why you're driving, after all?
Road trips seem to be an essential part of the spring and summer season. They can be all the more fun and safe when you heed a few road trip rules of the road.
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