This morning, the freeways in Houston were a mess. The rain came down and the accidents started popping up everywhere. What usually takes 45 minutes to commute, took me an 1 hour and 45 minutes. I kept thinking to myself, “I’m sure glad it’s not cold AND rainy.” While the weather is unseasonably warm for this time of year, I was quite thankful I didn’t have to deal with ice on top of the traffic. But it got me thinking. Holiday travel is revving up and safety might not be on your mind. Whether you’re driving for work or simply for the holidays, here’s a few travel safety tips to think of as you pack the car to see grandma and grandpa this Christmas. Some of these are, of course, common sense but when you add in the stress of shopping, traffic, and finances… we forget. Don’t we?
Check behind vehicles before moving
Can I just say I’ve backed over more bikes in my own driveway than I care to admit? We solved this problem by buying a vehicle with a rear camera (and teaching our kids to put their bikes away), but you just can’t be too careful. According to Safety.com, about 99 percent of the time drivers are behind the wheel, they are moving forward. But it’s the rest of the time — that tiny 1 percent when they are backing up — when a disproportionate number of collisions take place. In fact, the National Safety Council estimates that 25 percent of accidents can be blamed on poor backing techniques. Moreover, the victims of backing accidents frequently are small children, who are especially hard for drivers to see. A study by the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration shows back-over accidents kill 90 people each year, and almost half are younger than 4 years old.
Maintain a safe distance between vehicles
I take this seriously. Houston traffic is stop and go, but sometimes the “stop” happens VERY abruptly. Keeping safe distance gives you breathing room to step on those brakes while giving the person behind you time to stop as well. The Smart Motorist says to determine the right following distance, first select a fixed object on the road ahead such as a sign, tree or overpass. When the vehicle ahead of you passes the object, slowly count “one one thousand, two one thousand, three one thousand.” If you reach the object before completing the count, you’re following too closely. Making sure there are three seconds between you and the car ahead gives you time and distance to respond to problems in the lane ahead of you.
Make sure your vehicle is in good repair
I took my mini-van to get new brake pads this weekend. It was NOT in my plans for December and I grew a little bitter just thinking about the cost, especially when I still have SO much Christmas shopping to do, but it was a safety hazard for our family. While the cost was unexpected, I’d rather pay for maintenance now instead of paying for it later when I get in an accident. Not having any major car issues right now? That’s okay, getting your vehicle ready for winter should still take priority.
If you drink, don’t drive (obviously)
Drinking and Driving is a threat to everyone. According to the CDC, almost 30 people in the United States die in motor vehicle crashes that involve an alcohol-impaired driver everyday. This amounts to one death every 51 minutes. Driving drunk is never OK. Choose not to drink and drive and help others do the same. Designate a nondrinking driver before any party or celebration begins. Remind others to do the same.
Don’t overload your vehicle or obstruct your view with luggage or packages
Trying to get all those gifts to grandma’s house? Consider mailing them beforehand to give you room in the vehicle or research ways to safely pack them in luggage racks out of your view. Consider washing clothes at your destination to keep from packing too many suitcases in the back.
Carry an emergency kit
In case you encounter unexpected severe weather, make sure you have an emergency kit in your car. Things you can include are:
- First-aid supplies
- Spare batteries
- Sand, salt, or cat litter for traction
- Quick energy foods such as nutrition bars or nuts
Sara Patterson is the Social Media Manager for Nova Medical Centers. With more than 8 years working with clients in the social media industry, she now manages the digital aspect of Nova Medical Centers through online marketing, social media, and web content.