What Safety Tips Should I Keep in Mind When Planning a Long Road Trip?

Family on a road trip

For many travelers, looking forward to a road trip this summer is a welcome diversion from the social distancing, quarantining, and overall stress related to the global pandemic. However, all of the anticipation and excitement can go out the window if the motorist gets into a serious car accident during the trip. Although motorists cannot control how other people drive, they can take steps to avoid causing a devastating car accident, including following the rules of the road, avoiding common distractions, and making sure their vehicle is well maintained.


How can I Avoid a Car Accident When Traveling?


The following are top safety tips that motorists should keep in mind when planning a long road trip:


  • Plan ahead. When going on a long road trip, motorists are urged to choose a route they plan to take, but have alternate routes planned as well, in case road construction or an accident causes heavy traffic or road closures. It is also highly recommended that motorists plan for natural stopping points where they can get gas, have a bite to eat, or simply get out of the car and stretch their legs. For extremely long trips, motorists may also need to book a hotel room, which should be done in advance to ensure that there are vacancies.
  • Get plenty of rest. Long drives can be exhausting, so motorists should get enough sleep the night before a long day behind the wheel. Common signs of drowsy driving include excessive yawning, frequent blinking, drifting out of the lane, restlessness, and an inability to keep one’s eyes open. Motorists should also avoid taking any over-the-counter medications that can cause drowsiness. If a driver starts to experience any of these symptoms, they should pull over to a safe, well-lit area and rest. If there is another licensed driver in the car, he or she can share the driving responsibility.
  • Avoid distractions. Distracted driving is one of the top causes of car accidents, particularly among inexperienced teen drivers. When traveling for an extended period of time, motorists are strongly urged to avoid common distractions, including talking or texting on the phone, checking the GPS system, changing the radio station, reaching for something in the back seat, and interacting with other motorists in the vehicle. One moment of distraction can have devastating consequences if it results in a serious accident. In fact, some studies suggest that texting while driving can increase the risk of a fatal car accident by close to 900 percent.
  • Obey the speed limit. Drivers may be tempted to exceed the speed limit if they are excited to arrive at their destination, or if a car accident or some other traffic delay is making their trip take longer than expected. However, they are strongly urged to resist that temptation. Speeding is one of the top causes of serious car accidents. The faster a car is traveling, the greater the force of the impact when the vehicles collide. Drivers need to slow down and obey the rules of the road at all times.
  • Practice defensive driving. Whether traveling on a busy highway or local two-lane road, it is important to pay attention to the other motorists in the vicinity. For example, if another driver is tailgating, weaving in and out of lanes, or cutting off other motorists, it is best to slow down, move to another lane, and move away from a potentially dangerous situation. In addition, when driving near a large commercial truck, motorists should stay out of the truck’s blind spots. If a motorist cannot see the truck driver in the side mirror, the truck driver cannot see the passenger vehicle.
  • Do not tailgate. A good guide is to follow what is known as the three-second rule. Drivers pick an object on the road ahead such as a bridge or a road sign. Motorists should allow at least three seconds to go by from the time the car ahead passes that object to the time the motorist’s vehicle passes the same object. Drivers should allow four seconds to pass when following a large truck, and six seconds during inclement weather.
  • Keep all cargo safely secured. The longer the trip, the more equipment travelers need to pack. Motorists should make sure that all suitcases, coolers, and other heavier items are safely secured in the trunk, and that other items are secured so that they stay in place. Important documents and identification should be kept in a spot where they are easily accessible.
  • Check the weather report. Weather conditions can change quickly during the summer. Severe thunderstorms can roll in quickly, bringing heavy rain and wind. This can make driving conditions treacherous and unsafe. Wet roads can increase the risk of hydroplaning and other dangerous driving conditions. Motorists are urged to slow down, increase their following distance, keep their headlights on, and avoid making any sudden changes in direction or speed. If possible, driving should be avoided until the severe weather has passed.
  • Keep an emergency kit in the car at all times. Unforeseen events can happen when a driver least expects it, including car accidents, severe weather, and tire blowouts. If this happens, having a well-stocked emergency kit in the car can ensure that the occupants stay safe until help arrives. Emergency kits should include a range of items, including blankets, extra warm clothing, bottled water, non-perishable snacks, extra cell phone charger, flashlight with extra batteries, a first-aid kit, basic set of tools, emergency flares or reflectors, and a rain poncho to name a few. Unfortunately, travelers are still dealing with a global pandemic, so they should also keep plenty of hand sanitizer in the vehicle, as well as disposable gloves, extra face masks, and disinfectant wipes so they can wipe down their doors, steering wheel, mirrors, gear shift, and other high-touch surfaces.
  • Make sure the vehicle has been maintained. Before taking a long road trip, drivers should make sure the vehicle is working properly, that all of the key components of the car have been checked, and that all necessary repairs are made before hitting the road.


How Do I Prepare My Vehicle for a Long Trip?


When it comes to planning for a road trip this summer, one of the most important things motorists should do is to make sure that the vehicle is in good working order. At least a month before the scheduled trip, motorists should schedule an appointment with a qualified service professional who can conduct a bumper-to-bumper inspection of the vehicle and make any of the necessary repairs prior to the trip. It is highly recommended that motorists address the following maintenance issues before taking a long road trip:


  • Check tires. As the weather gets warmer, the air pressure inside the tire may fluctuate. The tires should be inflated to the manufacturer’s recommended pressure, which can be found in the owner’s manual or in the driver’s side door jam. If the tires show any evidence of significant wear and tear, including cuts, bulges, and gouges, they may need to be replaced.
  • Check the brakes. If the vehicle starts to vibrate when the driver applies the brakes, or they make a grinding sound when the brakes are applied, the vehicle should be inspected. A qualified mechanic will check the brake system and determine whether there are any fluid leaks, or if the pads, rotors, shoes, or drums need to be replaced.
  • Test the battery. Extreme cold can drain the battery, so it is highly recommended that car owners have their battery checked in the spring when the cold weather is over. A mechanic should also make sure that the cable connections are clean, tight, and secure.
  • Top off fluids. Engine oil, coolant, brake, transmission, and power steering fluids should all be checked and topped off if they are low.
  • Check windshield wipers and fluid. Wipers will deteriorate over time and cause streaking or fail to thoroughly clear the windshield. The wiper fluid reservoir should be filled, and the nozzle spray should be checked to ensure that it is working properly.
  • Check all belts and hoses. These can also become cracked or frayed over time. They should be inspected and replaced if they show signs of wear and tear. It is recommended that drive belts be replaced every 60,000 miles.
  • Check the air conditioning system. As the weather begins to warm up, drivers should take a test drive with the air conditioning running and take note if there is a decrease in cooling capacity. A mechanic will determine whether any repairs need to be made, or if the cabin filter needs to be replaced.


Baltimore Car Accident Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Advocate for Victims of Car Accidents


If you or someone you know was seriously injured in a car accident during a long road trip, you are urged to contact the Baltimore car accident lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton at your earliest convenience. We will examine the details of the case and determine whether the other driver was negligent in any way. Our dedicated legal team will protect your rights, walk you through every step of the claims process, and ensure that you receive the maximum financial compensation you deserve for your injuries. We will not stop fighting for you until you are completely satisfied. To schedule a free, confidential consultation, call us today at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online.


Our offices are conveniently located in BaltimoreColumbiaGlen Burnie, and Prince George’s County, where we represent victims throughout Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel CountyCarroll CountyHarford CountyHoward CountyMontgomery CountyPrince George’s CountyQueen Anne’s CountyMaryland’s Western CountiesSouthern Maryland and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of CatonsvilleEssexHalethorpeMiddle RiverRosedale, Gwynn OakBrooklandvilleDundalkPikesvilleParkvilleNottinghamWindsor MillLuthervilleTimoniumSparrows PointRidgewood, and Elkridge.