They say there are really only two seasons: winter and construction. While it’s still snowing in some parts of the Rockies, we’re at least heading full steam toward that hotter “construction season.” When it comes to staying safe and avoiding problems on the road, here are some tips to keep your road trips stress-free.
- Be Prepared.
Just like good scouts, you should check your equipment with a safety inspection before heading out on the highways. After winter, even the most thorough car-safety kit could need freshening up.
If you keep an emergency kit in your car (and you should), make sure your materials are appropriate to the season and where you’re traveling.
- Have food and water? Check expiration dates and make sure it hasn’t gone rancid. Snacks like nuts can go bad quickly, and water bottles can crack when frozen and leak in the summer.
- Trade snow for sun. Most hot weather destinations won’t require your heavy mittens, but you should carry (unexpired) bottles of sunscreen and sun protection in your car.
- Have shoes for walking. While you might like sandals for driving (watch those pesky flip-flops) if you get stuck and need to hike out several miles, you’ll be happy for sturdy shoes and socks in your kit.
- Stow overnight supplies. If you have to hunker down and wait for help, make sure you have basics for shelter, fuel and warmth. Even in the summer, many vacation destinations in the mountains can be cold and remote.
- Check for planned road projects before you leave.
Besides state highway project maps and lists, you can check with your AAA office on major construction plans that could mean delays or detours. Especially when you’re driving or towing a large vehicle like an RV or a boat, you’ll want to make sure you know when you’re just too big to travel on temporary roadways or bridges. Plan to have plenty of paper maps for your trip in case your phone doesn’t get data service, or you need to plan alternate routes due to emergencies like wildfires or flash floods.
- Get a refresher if you’re driving something new.
It’s been a few months since you battled the recreational vehicle out of its storage spot and headed down the highway. Would you remember what your size and tow limits are, how to hitch up your toys, merge safely, set your mirrors or even how to dump the tanks? Try checking your manuals or make a quick search of manufacturer sites or even You Tube for video tips and tutorials.
- Check your equipment.
Cars, trucks or towables all have one thing in common: tires.
“It’s a good idea to make sure that your trailer tires are pumped up, and to have a good spare tire for the trailer as well as your car or truck,” says Renae Goodwin, CIC, CPRIA, sales executive at PayneWest.
When was the last time you checked the tire pressure and tire condition on your vehicle? If you can’t remember, it’s time to do a check. The same goes for your spare tires, as well. (RVs have a lot of tires. Are you sure they’re all road-ready?)
- Slow down.
The most important thing you can do when it comes to being safe on the road is to slow down. This is doubly important in construction zones, where lanes can change abruptly and you’ll be driving through someone’s actual work space. Avoid deadly accidents by simply slowing it down and playing it safe.
In the last five years, 4,400 people died in work zone crashes (85% of which were the driver or passenger in a vehicle) and over 200,000 people were injured.
“Speed is always an issue,” says Goodwin. “I think more often than not, it’s people who don’t slow down enough in construction zones. I see this every day, even in town. People get in a hurry, and all of a sudden a big hole comes up and they’re trying to swerve or not paying attention to oncoming traffic. You can end up in a hole with damage to your vehicle, or worse to another car or person.”
- Keep insurance information handy.
You’ll likely be paying your vehicle’s insurance premiums twice a year but with that notice also comes an updated in-vehicle proof of insurance card. Double check the information you have on hand is the latest insurance card. While you might be the safest driver out there, if someone crunches into your vehicle, you’ll need to provide this information as a matter of law in most states.
In case of an accident, it’s always smart to document everything, even with a spare notepad and pen when you don’t have cell service. Make sure you have everything handy to exchange details with another driver if you need to.
- Make sure your coverage is up-to-date.
If summer is time for your vintage car to come out of storage or for your truck to come off the farm and onto the highway, you may need to adjust your insurance coverage.
“Sometimes people will have a pickup truck that they’ll drop to comprehensive only, and they forget to add collision or liability coverage in the summer,” says Goodwin. “Make sure you’re covered when you take it out of the garage — don’t wait until after an accident happens.”