We’re coming up on Christmas, which means a lot of us will be hitting the road for vacations or family festivities. But volatile weather conditions means the winter road trip can be quite dangerous. Plus, there are far more drunk driving accidents around Christmas and New Years. Here are a few tips — easy ones! — to keep you and the family safe if you’re hitting the road over the holidays.
Get your car in shape. This would be a great time for a tune-up, since even minor mechanical problems at this time of year can leave you stranded or worse. Swing by the shop and the pros can check your tire wear, belts and hoses, fluid levels, battery capacity, and more. Even if your car is in good mechanical shape, pay particular attention to things that take a beating in the cold, like tires and wipers. If those aren’t in great shape, replace them before your start your trip.
Do not stop on the shoulder of a highway if you can avoid it. If you have an emergency keep driving if possible to the next exit and remove yourself and your car. Waiting for a period of time on shoulder of highways without your hazards activated is extremely dangerous place to be.
Get yourself in shape. If you haven’t driven in snow or ice for a while, be extra careful. Knowing how your car reacts to snow and ice is a skill, and you can build your skills with some practice on side roads before nosing out into traffic. Remember that stopping times are much longer in snowy conditions, which could be exacerbated by low visibility in a storm. Winter brings with it many rear-end collisions — and the National Highway Traffic and Safety Association says 90 percent of them could be avoided by drivers giving one extra second in following distance. Give yourself more time to get where you’re going.
And remember that it’s not always about you! Keep your eyes on the other cars on the road and try to predict their behavior. Avoid sitting in another car’s blind spot; winter conditions can make it very difficult for other drivers to see you.
Hopefully the worst doesn’t happen. But if it does, you should be prepared to handle an emergency. Even the ordinary essentials, like jumper cables, flashlights, and reflective markers, are more important in the battery-sapping cold and limited daylight of winter. Don’t forget to pack your ice scraper and maybe a small shovel. You should also be prepared for any kind of incident in which you might have to wait a while for help. An extra jacket or blankets in the car can keep you warm if you end up stranded. And some food and water in the car — even a gallon jug with a few granola bars — can go a long way toward making waiting out a storm in your car more bearable.
Take these tips into account and make it a happy, healthy holiday!