You’ve been planning the great American road trip all spring and it’s finally time to load up the car and head out on the highway. While you may have your GPS set and your hotel reservations made, are you sure your car is in good shape and that you’ve packed the safety essentials you’ll need to prevent an emergency? Read our summer driving tips to find out.

a family on a road tripTip #1: Be Prepared

With a strong economy and low gas prices, more Americans than ever will likely load up the car and drive to their destinations this summer. More drivers mean more danger, so the better prepared you are, the more likely you are to arrive at your beach, mountain, or big city adventure safely.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recommends taking the following steps before even leaving your driveway:

  • Get a check-up for your car. If you haven't had a recent tune-up, now is the time. Get an oil change if you’re due, check and adjust tire pressure, have the battery and battery cables checked, and rotate the tires if they need it. Taking these precautions can save you a massive and expensive headache down the road.
  • Check for recalls. Make extra sure there isn't an outstanding service notice on your vehicle by typing the car’s VIN into the recall notice look-up. If you find a recall notice, schedule the repair with your dealer before you leave.
  • Pack an emergency kit. Ideally, you already have one of these in your car, but if not, you should put a kit together before driving hundreds of miles. NHTSA recommends packing the following:
    • Cell phone car charger
    • First aid kit
    • Flashlight
    • Flares and a white flag
    • Jumper cables
    • Tire pressure gauge
    • Jack for changing a tire
    • Work gloves
    • Basic repair tools and some duct tape
    • Water and paper towels for cleaning up
    • Nonperishable food, drinking water, and medicines
    • Extra windshield washer fluid
    • Maps
    • Towels, coats, and emergency blankets

The bottom line is that you can never be too prepared. Never leave for a big trip in a rush. Take several weeks to get things together and make sure your car is travel ready.

Tip #2: Safety First

You may take risks on your daily commute to work, but when your entire family is on board, now isn't the time to speed, drive aggressively, or take other unnecessary risks. Remember that you're on vacation and the relaxation should start as soon as you leave home. Allow yourself plenty of time to get where you are going and always drive defensively.

Other tips from NHTSA include the following:

  • Stay alert. Get plenty of rest before embarking on your trip and plan for regular stops to eat, drink, and stretch your legs. Alternate driving with your partner, if possible, and avoid marathon driving sessions to get there faster.
  • Stay focused. Resist the urge to check your phone while you're driving. After all, you're on vacation! As an added bonus, not using your phone while you are driving will set a great example for all the eyes in the back seat who are learning from your actions.
  • Buckle up. Everyone in the car should be properly restrained. No matter how much they complain on a long trip, children under age 8 should be in car seats or boosters—no exceptions. If you're hit by another driver, seat belts are your best protection from serious injury and death.
  • Stay cool. As you stop along the way or once you have reached your destination, remember to never leave children or pets in a hot car. Provide plenty of water and run the air conditioning or open the windows while driving.
  • Never drink and drive. Yes, you're on vacation and want to relax and have a good time. However, you should never drive after having even a couple of drinks. Instead, walk to dinner and back (or take a cab or car service), or wait until you're back at the hotel or cabin before enjoying an adult beverage.

A summer road trip can be a memory that lasts a lifetime, so we encourage you to do everything you can to keep your family safe.

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James Roswold
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James Roswold is a Kansas & Missouri personal injury, workers comp, and medical malpractice attorney.
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