For many Americans, the holiday season means going to spend time with friends and family, which in turn means spending a lot of time in the car. Keep these five safety tips in mind to avoid accidents, protect your family from potential injury and keep your car insurance costs down.
With the high stress levels and added expenses associated with the holiday season, many drivers unintentionally neglect their vehicles. Bad brakes, bad tires and other maintenance issues can significantly increase the risk of an accident and make collisions more dangerous if they do occur. Take the time before your long-distance trip to get an oil change, have the engine checked and perform any necessary repairs. In addition, consider having snow tires put on your car to improve traction when driving in winter weather.
Avoid the Fast Lane
Long-distance travel often means driving hundreds of miles on the highway, where high speeds can make the road especially dangerous. In general, the best policy is to stay in the middle or right lane and use the left-most lane only for passing. Because drivers in the “fast lane” often exceed the speed limit by as much as 20 miles per hour, accidents happen with greater frequency and greater severity there. The time saved by driving at an unsafe speed in this unsafe lane simply isn’t worth the risk of an accident, especially with children or family members in the car.
Take Your Time
Related to the problem of driving at unsafe speeds is the issue of having too little time for travel. Travelers who feel as though they are running late may push themselves to their mental and physical limits, driving for hours on end with no breaks for rest and refreshment. When the entire family is in the car for so long, tensions can run especially high, causing the driver to become distracted or angry. Budget plenty of time for travel and stop frequently to get some rest. You should also leave time to eat, drink, use the restroom and prepare for the next leg of the trip.
Especially in northern parts of the country, the holiday season is also the snowy season, and snow can make driving especially treacherous. Even on the highway in clear weather, glare from accumulated snow on the side of the road can reduce visibility and cause an accident. Driving on snow-covered back roads or in a raging blizzard is especially dangerous. Don’t hesitate to change your travel plans on the fly if conditions are too severe to drive. If you must drive in the snow, slow down, keep to the main roads whenever possible and be constantly alert.
Watch the Other Drivers
There is no way to control other cars on the road, of course, but it is possible to watch out for potentially dangerous drivers. Keep an eye out for drivers who appear to be exhausted, inebriated or distracted by mobile phones or passengers. Likewise, pay attention to the physical condition of other nearby cars: If a vehicle is damaged or obviously poorly maintained, its driver may be somewhat reckless. Protect yourself and your family by keeping your distance from these drivers, especially if they change speeds wildly or drift from lane to lane.
This article was contributed by Alison Anderson, a senior writer for www.bestcheapcarinsurance.net, who covers travel tips and vehicle maintenance.