Tips to ensure holiday road trips are safe and stress-free

A motorist guides an SUV along a street as a heavy snowfall swept over the region Wednesday night, Feb. 24, 2021, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
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A motorist guides an SUV along a street as a heavy snowfall swept over the region Wednesday night, Feb. 24, 2021, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Credit: David Zalubowski

Credit: David Zalubowski

After a 2020 holiday season in which the pandemic forced the postponement or cancellation of festivities, families are planning to get together once again in 2021. Many people will head home for the holidays this year, and the vast majority will take to the highway to do so.

The U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics says the Thanksgiving and Christmas/New Year’s holiday periods are among the busiest for long-distance travel. The highways will be busy with motorists criss-crossing the country to visit loved ones. Holiday travel may require covering a long distance in a limited amount of time. Finding ways to be efficient in regard to time management can reduce stress and improve safety.

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Travel at night

If you can safely manage it, you may experience considerably less traffic in the evening hours than during other times of day. In addition, if kids are in tow, they may sleep much of the way, helping to reduce the number of times they ask, “Are we there yet?” Share driving responsibilities with another person so that each driver can take a break to prevent drowsy driving.

Get a vehicle maintenance check

No one wants to get stranded on the side of the road with a car filled with gifts and treats. It’s well worth the investment to have a mechanic give a vehicle a checkup prior to leaving. Get an oil change even if it’s a little early to do so. Look at tire tread wear and ensure that you have the right tires for the road conditions where you’ll be headed.

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In an undated handout photo, the High Road PadPockets tablet holder and car seat organizer. The $30 accessory, which puts more of the seat back space to use, is one of a number of items that could shift a ho-hum holiday road trip into the next gear. (Handout via The New York Times)

In an undated handout photo, the High Road PadPockets tablet holder and car seat organizer. The $30 accessory, which puts more of the seat back space to use, is one of a number of items that could shift a ho-hum holiday road trip into the next gear. (Handout via The New York Times)
Caption
In an undated handout photo, the High Road PadPockets tablet holder and car seat organizer. The $30 accessory, which puts more of the seat back space to use, is one of a number of items that could shift a ho-hum holiday road trip into the next gear. (Handout via The New York Times)

Plan your route

People often rely on mobile phone or dashboard GPS systems to get where they need to go. However, it helps to have a general idea of the route so that if service drops out you can still find your way. Scout out rest stops or acceptable restaurants online prior to leaving so you have a plan for making stops in safe areas.

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Stock the car

While presents may be taking up valuable real estate, pack a cooler with snacks and beverages to help reduce how many times you need to get off the highway. Also, games or other forms of entertainment can keep children occupied on long trips.

Slow down in inclement weather

The holiday meal can be reheated if you’re late, so don’t feel compelled to speed or drive erratically when the weather is stormy. It’s not worth the risk of getting into an accident that can cause serious injuries. Travelers United, a nonprofit organization that represents all travelers, also warns that quick storms that pop up after a long dry spell can immediately make road surfaces extremely slippery. Use caution. Planning and preparation are essential to getting home safely this holiday season.

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