There’s nothing more American than packing up the car and taking a family summer road trip. Whether you’re headed down the road to grandma’s house, across state lines to the nearest beach, or all the way across the country, making sure you get your family there safely is top of mind. By following these summer road trip tips, you’ll help ensure you’ve thought of everything to keep your family safe while you’re on the road.
Tune up the car
Before leaving on your road trip, take your car for a tune-up. Make sure all oil and fluid levels are topped off and that the tires are properly inflated. Consider that your car may soon be under stress it’s not used to, like driving up and down mountain passes, so make sure your brakes are working properly as well.
If you do experience some minor glitch while driving, it helps to know simple car maintenance techniques like how to use jumper cables, how to refill your wiper fluid, how to check the air pressure in your tires and how to change a flat tire—so brush up on your maintenance skills before you leave. Clean your headlights, taillights, signal lights and the inside and outside of your windshield.
Many newer cars come with their own roadside assistance. Familiarize yourself with the coverage and make sure the emergency numbers are handy. If you don’t have this coverage, consider joining a roadside assistance service like American Automobile Association (AAA). As a member, AAA will come to your rescue should you lock your keys in the car, get a flat tire, or break down.
Bring a map
You may plan to use GPS to navigate to your destination, but you never know when you may lose signal, cell phone service or your GPS might fail. Good, old-fashioned maps won’t lose power and are reliable no matter what goes wrong, so be sure to bring one along.
Consider the weather
We’re all aware of the dangers of driving in inclement weather. Severe summer weather can often produce heavy downpours, tornados and flash floods. If the weather looks threatening, tune in to a local radio station for updates and keep your ears peeled for storm sirens. It’s always good advice to stay on main roads and highways if possible and try to avoid backcountry roads when you can—especially if you’re driving in unfamiliar areas that may have the threat of flash floods.
If you find yourself in storm conditions that force you to stop driving, make sure you pull all the way off of the highway and turn on your hazard lights. If you are stranded and have to run your vehicle for any reason, do so for 10 minutes every hour and make sure windows are open slightly to prevent carbon monoxide buildup. If you find you’ll be spending the night in your car, illuminating the interior lights will not use as much battery as your exterior light, but still provide a visual indicator to rescuers.
Have a travel safety kit
You should always have a safety kit in your car, but make sure your kit is well stocked before leaving for your summer road trip. Your kit should include warm blankets, water and first aid items, a small flashlight, flares, a battery-operated radio and an emergency contact card. It’s also a good idea to keep a car safety hammer near the driver’s seat. If you happen to be in an accident or your car is submerged in water, the car safety hammer can be used to break the window and create a path to safety.
If you are prescribed important medication, keep it in the car with you and not in the trunk in the event that your trunk becomes inaccessible.
Make sure car seats and boosters are properly installed
The annual family road trip time is a good time to make sure that car and booster seats are properly installed and appropriately fitted to your child. In most cities, local hospitals or fire stations provide free car seat fittings and instillations. Schedule an appointment before you hit the road and travel with peace of mind.
Leave your phone on for cell location
Should your family experience an emergency in a rural environment where communication with the outside world is not possible, remember that cell phone location technologies are extremely helpful in locating missing people. If you’re stranded in your car, keeping your cell phone on will help rescuers pinpoint your location. However, when your phone is out of power it will no longer be helpful in locating you. Keep portable phone chargers and power cords in your car so you’re not stuck with a drained battery in an emergency. Just (And) don’t forget to charge them in advance!
If you’re tired, stop driving
It seems like an obvious tip, but according to the CDC there are 72,000 crashes and nearly 6,000 fatal crashes due to drowsy driving each year. A study by AAA found that the risks of fatigued driving are comparable to drunk driving. We know it can be tempting to push through to your destination, even when you begin to feel tired, but the risks aren’t worth it. If you begin to feel fatigued, get your family to a hotel and resume your drive in the morning.
Let someone know your destination and when you plan to arrive
Communicating your travel plans with someone back home is a crucial piece of your safety plan. Designate a friend or family member to share your itinerary with. If plans change, let them know. When you’ve stopped for the night, check in and share your location as well as your travel plans for the following day. These mundane details could be crucial in locating your family should you suddenly drop off the radar.
Be prepared in a worst-case scenario
It’s hard to think about, but if your family was involved in an auto accident with injuries, what is the long-term plan for returning back home? With an air-medical transport membership like MedjetAssist, members who are hospitalized 150 miles or more from home can arrange medical transport back to their hometown hospital for free, after the cost of the annual membership (sounds expensive but it’s incredibly affordable). Medjet will arrange air medical transfer to a home hospital of choice, regardless of whether it’s deemed “medically necessary.” Your health insurance will only get you to the nearest “acceptable” medical facility (which may not be “acceptable” to you). The cost for other family members to remain nearby for any extended period of time may also break the bank, so it’s worthwhile coverage to explore.
It can be stressful and overwhelming to think about what danger could befall your family while on the road. Hopefully, you’ll never find a need for this information, but following these safety tips will give you the confidence to handle a crisis, and a sense of comfort knowing that you are prepared for the unexpected.
Article contributed by MedjetAssist, an official partner with the Medical Association. With MedjetAssist, you travel prepared. The safer you feel, the more you can focus on the moment. Especially when you travel. MedjetAssist empowers our members to feel safer and more prepared for travel’s many possibilities.