10 Tips for Safe Road Trips

Planning on packing up the kids and hitting the open road for a much-needed summer getaway? Before you back out of the driveway and break out the travel games, make sure your car is in good working condition and ready to make the stretch.

Here are 5 tips to know before you go:
- Change your oil and air filter. Dirty oil or a contaminated filter can cause excessive enginehaving a safe road trip wear, which can lead to poor vehicle performance and or even premature engine failure. When having your oil changed, ask the technicians to check your belts and hoses, transmission fluid level and battery and electrical system.

- Inflate your tires properly.
Proper tire inflation can make a big difference in the way your vehicle rides and handles, improving gas mileage by more than three percent when maintained regularly, according to the Car Care Council. Also, remember to properly inflate your spare tire. And strongly consider having your tires rotated every other oil change, or as directed in your owner’s manual.

- Inspect your brakes regularly. Since your brakes wear gradually over time, the loss of braking power often goes undetected. Make sure to have your brake pads, shoes and all related equipment inspected regularly.

- Look for leaks. Be sure to check both the coolant level and your air conditioning system’s refrigerant. Leaks in either system may cause your vehicle (and you) to overheat in the warm summer sun.

- Check your shocks and struts. Your vehicle’s shocks and struts should be checked in conjunction with wheel alignment, or if you notice excessive bouncing, swaying, rocking or nose-diving while braking.

Once you’re on the road, remember to:

- Use sun shields. Place screens in your car windshield while it is parked to ensure the interior does not get too hot, especially for children and pets. Never leave children or pets in an unattended vehicle.

- Secure your car. Always lock your vehicle’s doors and trunk, even at home, and keep your car keys out of the reach of children.

- Take Breaks. Everyone needs a break when traveling long distances. To ward off boredom and exhaustion, schedule frequent stops for meals or just some time to let kids run around a while.

- Keep young passengers occupied. Keep kids occupied with fun activities. Give them a kit of pencils, colored markers, books, paper, maps, activity books, stickers, their favorite CDs or a handheld video game.

- Buckle up and use car seats. The benefits of these life-saving devices are well documented. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), child safety seats, properly installed, reduce the risk of death by 71 percent for infants and 54 percent for toddlers; seat belts increase the chance of surviving by 45 percent. New laws also require booster seats for children who are under 4’9” tall. After age 8 (or once your child is over 4’9” tall), seat belts should be worn at all times.

Updated August 2012