For many New Yorkers, summer is the time for road trips: a chance to get out of the city hit the open road, and explore the country beyond the Five Boroughs. Whether you’re going out to Long Island, headed Upstate, or venturing a little farther afield, preparing in advance can keep you safe and reduce the chances that something unexpected ruins your fun. Let’s explore the top safe driving tips to keep in mind, both in the weeks and days leading up to the trip and while you’re out on the blacktop.
Get Your Car a Tune-Up in Advance
Ensuring your vehicle is in top shape is one of the most important things you can do before a summer road trip. A comprehensive check-up by a professional mechanic could address any potential issues that may lead to accidents or roadside breakdowns.
A pre-trip tune-up should include checking and refilling the car’s oil, transmission fluid, brake fluid, and coolant as necessary. The mechanic should also inspect the tires for tread depth and air pressure, examine the brake pads for wear and tear, test the battery, and review the condition of the belts and hoses.
Familiarize Yourself with Your Car’s Features
Familiarity with your car’s features isn’t just about convenience – it’s also about safety. It’s crucial to understand how all the controls in your car work, from basics like windshield wipers and turn signals to more complex systems like GPS or advanced safety features. Accidents can often be caused by a driver’s momentary confusion or uncertainty, and that’s a particular risk with today’s feature-loaded vehicles and menu-heavy control systems.
Take the time to read through your car’s manual and understand how to work each feature, including how to quickly defog windows, activate hazard lights, use cruise control, or engage the car’s all-wheel-drive system if applicable. If your car has newer safety technologies like lane-keeping assistance or automatic emergency braking, be sure you understand their purpose and how they operate. This way, if any warning lights pop up on your dashboard while on the road, you’ll know exactly what they’re indicating and how to respond appropriately.
Renting? Do Your Research on Vehicle Options
If you’re like many carless New Yorkers, you won’t get far on your road trip without a rental. Doing your homework on vehicle options can make a world of difference for your safety and comfort. Don’t be swayed by just the price or aesthetic appeal of a rental car. Instead, focus on safety features, reliability, and suitability for your trip.
Do some research into the safety ratings of the cars you’re considering, paying close attention to factors such as crash test scores, stability control, and the presence and location of airbags. Consider the nature of your trip: will you be driving in the city, on highways, or on rural roads? Make sure to choose a car that is suitable for the specific conditions you’ll be encountering.
Make sure the rental car is equipped with a spare tire, jack, and the necessary tools to change a tire. Finally, upon picking up the rental car, take a moment to familiarize yourself with its features and controls before hitting the road, just as you would with your own car. This added layer of preparation will prevent you from being caught off-guard by unfamiliar controls or unexpected vehicle behavior while you’re on the move.
Plan Your Route
Planning your route ahead allows you to head off potential problems before they happen. With a planned route, you can anticipate gas station stops, locate suitable accommodations, and avoid potentially unsafe or inconvenient areas. Take advantage of GPS and mapping applications, but also consider having a physical map as a backup. Technology can sometimes fail or lack coverage in remote areas, and being prepared for such scenarios will prevent unnecessary stress or potential risk.
When planning, take into account driving conditions and the terrain. Will you be traversing mountainous areas or deserts or driving during periods of potential inclement weather? These factors can significantly influence your driving experience and may require additional preparation or equipment. Also, try to schedule the most challenging driving during the daylight hours when visibility is better. Remember, a well-planned route not only ensures your safety but also enhances the enjoyment of your road trip.
Keep Your Insurance Info Handy
It is crucial to have your insurance information readily accessible when on a road trip. Despite your best precautions, accidents can still happen, and if they do, having your insurance details at your fingertips will make a challenging situation considerably easier. This includes your insurance card, the contact number for claims, and knowing what your insurance covers.
In case of an accident, besides exchanging insurance details with the other party involved, it would be helpful to take pictures of the accident scene, note down the exact location, and gather contact information of any witnesses. This information can be valuable when reporting the incident to your insurance company. For added protection, consider carrying a list of emergency numbers, including roadside assistance, medical facilities en route, and non-emergency contact for local law enforcement.
Distracted driving is a leading cause of accidents on the road, accounting for over 3,000 fatalities in a single recent year, per the National Safety Council. Common distractions include cell phone use, eating, or interacting with in-car entertainment systems. It’s important to keep your focus on the road and be fully aware of your surroundings while driving.
If you need to use your cell phone, employ a hands-free setup or pull over to a safe place to make a call or send a text. If you’re traveling with others, assign a co-pilot to navigate, control the music, and manage other tasks that might divert your attention from the road. Remember, even a momentary distraction can have serious, potentially fatal consequences. Your focus should always be on your primary task: driving safely.
Follow the Rules of the Road
Following the rules of the road is fundamental to your safety and the safety of others. Adhere to speed limits, observe traffic signs and signals, use your turn signals, and practice defensive driving. Road rules are designed to regulate traffic and prevent accidents, so disregarding them not only puts you at risk but also endangers other road users.
Defensive driving means anticipating potential dangers and responding to them in a timely and safe manner. This includes maintaining a safe distance from the vehicle ahead, being aware of blind spots, and being especially cautious in adverse weather conditions. If you are driving in an area that’s not familiar to you, take some time to research the local traffic rules, as they can vary. Ensuring that you are always abiding by the rules of the road is one of the most effective strategies for a safe journey.
Know the Name of a Good Car Accident Lawyer
Unfortunately, no amount of precaution on your part can eliminate the risks of an accident entirely, especially when you have to share the road with less conscientious drivers. If you wind up being hurt in a car accident someone else caused, it’s important to know the name of a good personal injury attorney who can help you pursue compensation for your medical expenses, repair bills, lost income, and more. The New York car accident lawyers with Finz & Finz, P.C. have decades of experience we can put at your disposal, and because we work on contingency, we’ll do so at no upfront cost to you. Contact us as soon after a collision as possible, and we can get to work on your claim quickly and efficiently.