Holiday Driving Tips
Are you a holiday road warrior? Join the club.
Every federal holiday finds millions of Americans hitting the road — whether that means heading across state lines to relatives’ houses, zipping across town to friends’ barbecues, jetting off into the hills for rustic family getaways, or something else entirely. All too often, those extra drivers get in the way.
Statistics don’t lie: When more people get on the road, more accidents happen.
“Regardless of the season or location, holiday driving periods are busier and more dangerous for the average driver,” says Harry Kasparian, CMO of Miami-based auto marketplace HGreg.com.
Which is why state transportation authorities like Iowa Department of Transportation publish handy lists of holiday driving tips.
Whether you’re striking out for your annual Christmas ritual or taking a long Memorial Day weekend road trip, you don’t need to go back to driver’s ed to get ready. You just need to follow a few commonsense rules of the holiday road.
1. Plan Your Route in Advance
Don’t wait until you’re on the road to figure out where you’re going. By all means, use your smartphone’s navigation system, a dash-mounted GPS, or a next-gen tool like Waze to help you avoid traffic and detours. But make sure you know the basic contours of your route well in advance.
The best approach is to run a Google Maps nav on your phone — or, if you’re old-fashioned, print out directions on paper. Pay attention to real-time traffic info, and don’t be afraid to adjust your leave time accordingly.
2. Designate a Navigator
Unless you’re riding solo, designate a navigator — a copilot, if you will — to guide you through your route’s twists and turns. It’s much easier, and much more reliable, than straining to hear your computerized sherpa.
3. Do a Multi-Point Inspection Before Long Drives
You don’t need to take your car to the shop before every cross-town drive, but you shouldn’t stray too far afield without peeking under the hood. At minimum, check your tires, brakes, and oil levels prior to hitting the road, and listen for any odd noises that might indicate more serious problems. When in doubt, visit your mechanic for a tune-up — the upfront cost is likely to pale in comparison to the cost (and stress) of a breakdown in who-knows-where.
4. Don’t Drink and Drive
This one’s a no-brainer. If you plan to indulge this holiday, arrange a safe ride home first — a designated driver, rideshare, public transportation, whatever. If a safe ride isn’t forthcoming, make arrangements to stay the night.
5. Keep an Emergency Kit on Hand
Breakdowns can happen without warning. Prepare for the unexpected with a small, potent emergency kit: flashlight, basic first aid, snacks, water, flares. This is especially important if you plan to travel through remote areas.
6. Protect Kids, Valuables & Your Vehicle
No matter where you’re headed, take sensible precautions with your vehicle, possessions, and children. Always accompany kids into rest area bathrooms and designate meeting places at every stopping point. When you park, don’t leave valuables or luggage in plain sight. And, for goodness sake, don’t forget to lock your vehicle.
What are you doing to stay safe and sane on the roads this holiday?