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Keep Summer Road Trips Safe
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When the outdoors beckons, road trips can be the perfect way to see the countryside, escape the routine of daily life and enjoy short vacations.

When taking to the open road, it is important to focus on safety. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that planning and prevention can spare road-trippers from the consequences of breakdowns, traffic accidents or other road emergencies.

Stock emergency preparedness items. Prior to a trip, drivers should make sure their vehicles are equipped with necessary safety items. Liberty Mutual Insurance New Beginnings Report warns that nearly half of Americans do not check that proper emergency items are stored in their vehicles prior to getting on the road. Before embarking on a road trip, make sure vehicles have a first aid kit, flashlight, water bottles, phone chargers, tire-repair tools, flares, jumper cables, towels, and even an old backpack for storage.

Schedule a service call. Regular maintenance can keep vehicles from breaking down. Drivers should take their cars in for tune-ups before long road trips. Such tune-ups should include an oil change, battery check, tire rotation, and any other necessary servicing.

Plan your route. Map out the route before heading out. Be aware of potential road closures, obstacles or construction. Thanks to real-time GPS updates through mobile phones and other devices, some drivers like to rely on tech to get them through. But it’s important to realize service may be spotty in rural areas. Mapping a trip out in advance can save drivers from getting lost during mobile service interruptions.

Join a roadside repair service. Breakdowns happen even if trips are carefully planned. Automotive clubs can help drivers when breakdowns occur. Some car manufacturers also include roadside assistance in warranty packages, so inquire about your coverage.

Refresh defensive driving skills. A safe-driving course can remind drivers of the rules of the road. In some cases, courses also may qualify drivers for discounts on their auto insurance policies. One such class is the AARP Driver Safety course.

Avoid distractions. Keep children and other passengers occupied so they are not a distraction to the driver. Set out with favorite music, books, video games, or even a pad and paper for doodling. Pack snacks to keep everyone feeling full in between roadside pit stops. Drivers also can load their cars up with tissues, water and music to limit distractions.

Plan fun breaks along the way. Breaks give drivers a reason to rest and passengers an opportunity to get out and stretch their legs. The Roadside America smartphone app lists must-see stops along any route, and drivers can plan their own stops as well.

Stay over if necessary. According to the NHTSA, driving while drowsy is a contributing factor in 100,000 accidents every year. Drive only when well-rested. Share driving duties or plan a night at a motel so everyone is well-rested.

Road trips are all about fun, but drivers must emphasize safety before and during such excursions.