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Traveling Safely This Thanksgiving

The time of year is upon us for holidays and family gatherings, which can mean long trips in the car. The day before thanksgiving is the busiest driving day of the year, when millions make the pilgrimage home for the holiday. Although we all enjoy spending time with loved ones, a lot of time on the road can be stressful and even dangerous. There are a few things you can do, however, to make your long road trips this holiday season safer and more enjoyable for you and your family. The first thing you should do is make sure your car is prepared for winter driving. Change your oil, check the pressure of your tires, flush your cooling system, get a tune up, replace antifreeze, purchase new wiper blades & refill your washer fluid, and clean your head and sidelights. You can do these things on your own, or you can take your car into your local mechanic and they can do it for you. Preparing your car for the winter can save you a lot of time and help prevent an accident. These are simple things you can do to ensure you get where you need to be without any road bumps!

Once your car is in shape to make the trip, make sure the roads are too. Check in advance to see if there are any road closures or traffic delays. If you live in an area with early winters, some roads may not have been treated and may be slick. Roads can also be slick after a heavy rain, so if you are faced with this condition, be cautious. The federal highway administration is a great resource for checking traffic and road conditions. Check their site, www.fhwa.dot.gov/trafficinfo/index.htm, for traffic information and links to other traffic sites. Check the weather forecast before you go, and try www.drivecast.com for the weather along major interstate highways.

Traveling with children can be also be stressful. Make sure they have enough to do so they do not distract you while you are driving. Games, music, and coloring books (and maybe a few snacks) are great ways to keep kids occupied during long trips. Make sure they wear a seat belt, or are safely secured in car-seats at all times so they do not wander to the front of the car and distract you. Don't let them get bored; write a list of things to do/bring the night before so you don't have to scramble during the drive.

Don't forget to take breaks. We often rush to get to places, especially if it's a long drive. Taking breaks is important because it keeps us alert and responsive. Even a five minute coffee break can make a huge difference. There are rest stops along most major roads, so take advantage of them! Also, don't speed or rush to your destination. It is always best to take things slow to avoid unsafe driving; getting there safely should be your top priority. Be sure to watch out for other drivers too, they are trying to reach their destinations as well so maintain a safe following distance and be courteous to other drivers (even if they don't return the favor).

Make sure your car's gas tank stays full. During long trips, this can be difficult. Avoid going below the quarter tank line if you can. This will make sure your fuel-line doesn't freeze and that you don't run out of gas in cold weather. Don't take a chance with your gas tank; keeping it above a quarter will save you a walk to the nearest gas station in freezing winter weather!

A few other tips include using getting a good night's sleep the night before, avoiding drug and alcohol consumption before diving, and keeping an emergency kit in the car. These are simple things you can do to help you arrive at your destination safely. Be cautious and take breaks often. Our cars have to battle the winter road so we don't have to, so don't forget to give thanks to your car this thanksgiving


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