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7 Tips for Staying Safe on Road Trips

There are few trips that are more fun than a road trip. Piling your friends together in a car, singing along to your favorite tunes (don’t lie, we know it’s the Hamilton soundtrack), noshing on roadside diners and convenience store food, skipping the freeways to tool along the back roads and byways. There’s a reason the road trip has taken on mythic proportions in our culture.

As fun as these trips can be, they should also be taken seriously. There is a lot that can go wrong on a road trip and knowing how to handle yourself in an emergency is important. Here are our 7 tips on keeping yourself and your friends safe on your next road trip.

Learn How to Drive Around Trucks & Buses

Long distance bus RF

We don’t mean those F10s that will zoom around you as you cruise along the back roads. We’re talking about big rigs. Semis. If you’re not used to driving around them they can be incredibly scary–not just because of their size but because you never know the condition of the driver behind the wheel.

According to Brooklyn lawyers, David J Hernandez and Associates, “Drivers are legally mandated to take rests, avoid drugs and alcohol, and properly secure their cargo. When interstate trucking companies and their vehicle operators fail to live up to their legal duties, disaster can occur.”

This is why it is good to give these trucks wide berth. If you get tailgated, pull over. Share the road. Don’t try to show off.

The same goes for driving around buses.

Know How to Change a Tire

If you’ve never learned how to change a tire, it’s time to do that now. It is much simpler than you think it will be, we promise.

While we’re talking about changing tires, make sure you have one with you. The last thing you need is to run over a nail in the middle of nowhere and have no way to get your car to a service station. Yes, spare tires can take up room, but that’s okay.

And while we’re talking about using up space for safety, having a good “stuck kit” in the car is also important. This kit should include the basic tools you’ll need for basic issues you might encounter.

You’ll want to have the usual household tools–hammer, screwdriver, wrenches, pliers. And you’ll want to have a set of jumper cables, a bag of kitty litter (in case you get stuck in the mud somewhere), flares, a window breaker and seatbelt cutter, etc. Lifehacker has a good list to follow.

Image credit: State Farm / CC BY 2.0 / Flickr

Paper Maps

Yes, it’s fun to argue over how to fold them, but you should still have at least one good road atlas on hand. Sure you can use your phone’s GPS or your car’s Onstar system but what happens if you get lost somewhere without a signal?

Being able to plot out where you are and where you need to go from there is important.

Medical ID

We like to joke about those Medical ID bracelets, but they are truly important–especially when you are out of town and not likely to be seen by a doctor who knows you.

You will also want to make sure that everybody traveling in the car has their insurance cards and any important medical information printed out in an easy to find location.

Emergency Contacts

Collect emergency contact information from every person on the trip and make sure everybody has the list. Another good idea is to create an entry in your phone for ICE. ICE stands for In Case of Emergency and it helps paramedics and other personnel figure out who to call if there isn’t anybody near by who knows you.

Make sure all of that information is up to date. You can also use the notes section of your contacts list to write out medical information, allergies, medications you’re on, etc.

Don’t Overload Your Vehicle

Cuba classic car RF

Every car has a recommended combined weight for both passengers and cargo, but most people have no idea what the safe capacity of a car is.

Generally, a vehicle’s maximum capacity will be around 800 pounds. If you look on the panel of the drivers side door, there should be a sticker which gives the maximum capacity for your vehicle specifically.

Overloading your car while driving is dangerous for the following reasons:

  • Excess weight can cause your wheels to bulge out and heat up increasing the risk of a blowout.
  • Your suspension/traction control will not be able to handle highway speeds appropriately. The suspension system comes under stress, and, over time, the weakest point can give way.
  • Reduced effectiveness of your breaks. Any sudden steering/maneuvering is almost certain to end in a spinout.
  • Overloading could seriously compromise your ability to steer the car in a straight line and round bends safely. You could do serious damage and lose control if you hit a pot-hole or other obstruction at any speed.
  • If you pack the back seat too high, your rear vision may become impaired. Also, on this point, if you break too hard, remember that the gear in the car is still traveling at 70 miles per hour.
  • Gas costs rise significantly due to excess weight.
  • Insurance will not cover any damages caused due to an accident caused by overloading.

Get Real Sleep

Sleep bed RF

It can be tempting to drive through the night to avoid having to pay for a motel room or having to sleep in the car somewhere. Resist this temptation.

Tired drivers are hazardous drivers. It’s better to stop for the night when you feel tired and get some good sleep even if you all have to chip in for a motel room.

If you’re trying to keep the road trip as cheap as possible, pack some camping gear so you can stop at campgrounds where the rates for tent pitching are cheaper.

It’s true: road trips are supposed to be fun and bonding experiences. When you travel safely you don’t have to worry about an accident or emergency ruining everything because you’ll know how to handle whatever comes up.

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Megan is an Australian Journalist who has been travelling and blogging since 2007, with the main aim of inspiring others to embark on their own worldwide adventure. Her husband Mike is an American travel photographer, and together they have made the world their home.

Committed to bringing you the best in adventure travel from all around the globe, there is no mountain too high, and no fete too extreme! They haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on their list.

Follow their journey on Facebook, TwitterYouTube, Pinterest and Instagram.

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