Summer is here, school is out and for many families that means summer road trips are just around the corner. Whether you’re heading to the cabin for the weekend or making a week-long cross-country trek, there are a few safety tips to keep in mind as you travel.
Check your vehicle’s A/C
If you’re in an area of the country where this will be the first time using your car’s air conditioning system, it’s important to have it checked before you head out on a road trip. When it’s hot outside, your car’s A/C has to work harder to keep the vehicle cooler and on a hot summer day, a lack of A/C inside a car isn’t just uncomfortable, it can be dangerous. Especially to sensitive groups like infants, young children and elderly travelers.
Never leave children unattended in a vehicle
The summer months are some of the most dangerous for children in terms of vehicular heatstroke, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). A child’s body temperature rises three to five times faster than an adult’s and the temperature inside a parked vehicle can quickly rise 20 degrees warmer than the outside air temperature in a matter of minutes. The temperatures inside parked cars can reach as high as 130 degrees in peak summer months in some states, causing death within minutes.
Pack an emergency kit
Up here in the Midwest, we often travel with an emergency kit in our cars during the winter because getting stranded in below-freezing temperatures can be deadly. But having emergency supplies on hand is just as important in the summer, too. While you might not need a shovel or heavy blankets, having a light blanket in case temps dip at night is still a good idea. Other key pieces for your travel kit can include:
- Portable battery chargers
- Bottled water for your family and for your car’s radiator
- Non-perishable food
- First aid kit with any important daily medication
- Extra windshield washer fluid
- Basic repair tools and some duct tape (for temporarily repairing a hose leak)
- Jumper cables
Inspect your vehicle before heading out
Before you leave on a road trip is a great time to make sure everything on your vehicle is topped off and in good working order. NHTSA recommends checking for any active recalls on your vehicle first. Next, check the major components of your vehicle: tires, fluid levels, brakes, tires. Make sure your tires are in good shape before a long trip; being stranded on the side of the road with a blowout is no fun.
- Check the air pressure in all tires, including the spare. Also check tread depth, look for any damage, bulges or irregularities to the tread or sidewalls.
- Make sure the wiper blades are functioning properly.
- Check battery life and inspect batteries and battery cables.
- Inspect brake pads and linings for wear.
- Change the oil and filter if due.
- Test the headlights, brake lights, turn signals, emergency flashers and interior lights.
Traveling with kids
Always use the proper safety restraints for everyone in the vehicle at all times. Everyone should remain buckled, and in their seats. Try to stop every few hours to let kids get out and stretch their legs. Grownups need this time, too! Pack a cooler with drinks and snacks will save you time and money (fewer stops and less money spent on gas station snacks!). Lastly, take it slow and leave plenty of time.
Road trips are the classic family vacation, and with just a little prep on the front end, your next trek can be smooth sailing all the way. Happy travels!