Now that the Thanksgiving holiday weekend has passed and the year-end holidays are upon us, it's peak season for family winter road trips.
Whether you're taking off for a fun vacation in the snow, or just to visit loved ones and friends near and far, if your family is hitting the road, getting your vehicle ready for a safe trip needs to be on your list of things to do. Before you hit the road, be sure you've prepared yourself, your car, and your family for the adventure ahead. And when you're on the road, make sure everybody in the car is properly restrained by their seatbelt or child safety seat!
1) Prep Your Vehicle.
Make sure it’s tuned up and in good shape.
Check tire pressure and tread depth, refresh your antifreeze, and test the battery. Start your trip with a full tank of gas. Since visibility is so critically important to road safety, make sure your windows and windshields are clean before you leave. If your car is covered in snow, be sure to remove all snow and ice from your car be before you get behind the wheel. Don't just clean the windshield: Make sure you also clear snow and ice from side and rear windows, as well as the top, sides, and trunk of your vehicle. Clumps of snow falling off your car as you drive can be hazardous to drivers around you.
2) Check Your Headlights And Fog Lights.
Visibility is especially important during winter weather, and headlight bulbs dim over time.
According to AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, "An average of 9 out of every 10 cars on the road today has dirty or yellowed headlights that greatly reduce vision and need to be replaced, cleaned, and/or repaired."
To check the brightness of your headlight bulbs, park on a level surface facing five feet from a wall and check the light display. The circles of light should be bright or soft white, not yellow or dim, and the circles should be even and aligned straight forward on the wall. If they're not clear and bright, change the bulbs. A high-quality bulb will burn brighter and last longer. Be sure to replace both bulbs at the same time, even if it doesn't seem that they both need it.
"Driving a car that has major visibility problems can be like getting behind the wheel without your glasses," says automotive expert Sam Memmolo, who has spent three decades restoring and repairing cars in his garage and as the host of major automotive broadcast programs. "You just aren't going to be able to see well," says Memmolo. "This may put you and the people in your car at risk, as well as everyone on the road around you."
Since 90 percent of a driver's reaction depends on visibility, it is extremely important that your headlights are aimed correctly, are clean, and are working.
3) Change The Wipers And Fluid.
Harsh winter weather driving conditions are common in some areas, so ensure your wiper blades are fresh!
If you live in, or are traveling to, cold, snowy areas, fill the windshield washer reservoir with a fluid meant for low temperatures to prevent freezing in the reservoir or when spraying onto your cold windshield. Abundant moisture in the cold winter air may continuously collect on the windshield, making it more difficult to see, so use your wipers and defroster as necessary for the best visibility.
4) Check Your Tire Pressure And Tread.
If snow-covered roads are a part of your winter route, your tires need at least 6/32" of tread depth to maintain good mobility.
Always start your trip with your tires set to their proper pressure. Check tire pressure with a quality air pressure gauge and keep them filled to the vehicle’s manufacturer specifications listed in your manual or inside your vehicle's doorjamb. And don't forget to make sure your spare tire is also properly inflated: Before you leave for your trip, check its pressure, and make sure you have everything you need to install it in the event of a flat.
You need more tread depth in snow because your tires must compress the snow in their grooves and release it as they roll. If there isn't enough tread depth, the "bites" of snow your tires can take on each rotation will be so small that your traction will be reduced. To measure this amount, place a penny into several tread grooves across the tire. If the top of the Lincoln Memorial is always covered by the tread, you have more than 6/32" of tread depth remaining.
While checking your tread depth, be sure to examine the tread for signs of uneven wear or damage, including cuts, cracks, splits, punctures, and bulges. These conditions shorten the life of tires and could cause further tire damage if left unchecked. If any of these checks indicates a need for tire maintenance, or you’re doubtful about the condition of your tires, bring your vehicle to your nearest NEXEN tire dealer for a professional inspection.
5) Prep Your Kids.
Make sure you bring plenty of books, games, DVDs, or whatever it takes to keep the little ones comfortable and prevent them from distracting the driver who needs to focus all attention on the road.
Road trips are as much about snacking in the car as they are about the trip itself, so bring plenty of healthy drinks and snacks! Kids can get antsy on long trips, so take plenty of bathroom breaks to let them burn off pent-up energy and stretch their legs.
To make a long journey more fun, begin the road trip by handing out a scavenger-hunt-style list of sights and landmarks along the way to keep them engaged in what they see. Promise and deliver prizes for the most sites seen or most unusual things found.
If you've got little ones who might be prone to car-sickness, be sure to travel with Dramamine or other such medications, and don't forget to keep a few extra sealable plastic bags in the cabin…just in case.
6) Prep Your Route.
Scope out your route and the weather before you head out.
Visit www.fhwa.dot.gov/trafficinfo/for links to information on weather and road conditions. Another great source of information to have along the way is the Department of Transportation road condition hotline at 800.427.7623. Call in every few hours while you’re on the road to avoid or prepare for conditions up ahead.
Leave yourself some extra time on your holiday travel schedule. The roads will be heavily traveled, and congestion and winter storms can sometimes hit without warning. Always let someone know where you are, and check in with a family member or friend along the way so they know your location and when to expect you. Also, let someone know when you are heading back home and when you are expected to return.
7) Slow and Steady.
If you encounter bad weather, please slow down.
Adjust your car speed to fit the road conditions and be extra cautious when the roads are slick or icy. Give yourself plenty of time to react to traffic by increasing your following distance. Slow, gradual starts and stops will help you avoid skids. You need at a lot more space between you and the vehicle in front to stop, and remember that bridges and overpasses freeze first in cold conditions. There will also be more commercial vehicles on the road. Remember that they are a lot heavier then your little car and need much more time and distance to stop.
Regardless of the weather, watch your speed: Drive 55 mph instead of 65 to save fuel. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates a 10 to 15 percent improvement in fuel economy by following this tip.
8) Pack The Right Gear.
If you are traveling through areas where it might snow, you’ll need more than a snow brush and ice scraper.
You never know what might happen – in the big Chicago blizzard of 2011, nearly 1000 cars became stranded on Lake Shore Drive and many were trapped in their cars for as long as 12 hours. It’s just this type of situation that makes winter emergency kits so important.
Your emergency winter kit should include blankets; warm clothing; sand, cat litter or traction mats; a small shovel; a flashlight with fresh batteries; and warning flares or triangles. Most importantly, don't forget to bring your cellphone charger.
Also, stow a special kit inside the passenger compartment stocked with first aid supplies, extra sweaters and a blanket, drinking water, and anything else you might need in case you get stranded, along with your emergency safety equipment. If it's cold and snowy outside, you may not want to exit the vehicle to get these things from the trunk.
9) Stay Alert.
Start your trip well rested, take plenty of breaks, and do not push yourself to meet an unrealistic schedule.
Sitting upright will help keep you attentive. If you get tired, pull off the road into a rest area or business and get some fresh air. If you can’t stay alert and focused, find a motel or campground to spend the night; applications like Trivago and Hotels.com can help you find accommodations along the way. The AAA suggests road trippers plan to take a rest stop every two hours or 100 miles to reduce fatigue.
10) Don't Forget Your Pet's Essentials!
Be sure to bring food, bottled water, a traveling pet bed, and any toys or comfort items your pet enjoys at home.
You want your pet to be as comfortable as the rest of your family on the road. Car sickness is a very common incident, especially in puppies: While many dogs travel best with empty stomach, others respond better after eating a light meal, especially dogs that have one meal per day. Also make sure that you regularly stop and offer your pet some water. If you need to get out for a break and to stretch your legs, so does your pet - so don't leave him shut-up inside to freeze; take him with you.
Always make sure your pet is properly restrained inside the car with a traveling harness or pet carrier. If the animal is on a seat, unrestrained, then any sort of collision is likely to cause it to fly around the inside of the vehicle, probably injuring itself severely as it collides with headrests, the dashboard, or the occupants - or smashes itself through the windshield.
Need more tips to help you travel with a pet? Then check out these top safety tips for traveling with a pet.
11) Buckle Up for Safety.
All passengers should be safely restrained by seatbelts and child safety seats or boosters.
Did you know that motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death for children ages 1 to 13 in the USA? In 2013, a child under 13 was involved in a crash every 33 seconds. Sadly, many of these deaths and injuries could be prevented by proper use of car seats, boosters, and seat belts.
Make sure your car seat fits your child: As children grow, how they sit in your car will change. Make sure your car seat is designed to fit your child’s current size and age and allows some room for growth. Get more information on the right safety seat for your child here at AskPatty.
12) Don't Drink and Drive
Be even more aware of other drivers, especially during the holidays.
The reason is obvious: Holidays mean parties and drinking, which means more alcohol-impaired drivers. Officials with Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) cite alcohol as a contributing factor in roughly 52 percent of all deadly accidents on Christmas Day and 57 percent on New Year’s Eve.
#HolidayResponsibly: If you will be enjoying cocktails at a holiday party, check your blood alcohol content (BAC) with a portable breathalyzer (like this one from Floome) to make sure you are safe to drive. According to Responsibility.org 63 percent of Americans do not know that the legal limit for drunk driving is 0.08 BAC, which is the law in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. If you're not safe to drive, use a ride-share service like Uber or Lyft, or call a taxi to get you home.
Holiday travel is more about arriving safely at your destination. A little prep time before you leave and some extra caution on the road along the way will help you arrive safely -- ready to share laughter and good times with your family and friends.
For more information or service regarding NEXEN Tire America, visit www.NexenTireUSA.com and use the Dealer Finder to locate your nearest Authorized Nexen Dealer. You can also call the toll-free technical support number: 1-800-57-NEXEN (63936) / 1-866-70-NEXEN (63936). Follow @NexenTireUSA on Facebook and Twitter for details on tire and car care tips, exciting contests, and more.
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