Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Rules of the road: seven summer road trip tips

Cheap gas got you itching for the open road? Step on the brakes! There are a few things you need to do before you hit the open road this summer. Follow these tips to arrive at your final destination safely. 
1. Maintenance tune-up

Before any road trip, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recommends that you have your car's tires, battery, belts, fluids and air conditioning system checked by a qualified, certified mechanic. The vehicle needs to be serviced according to the manufacturer's recommendations, and it should be in ready-to-travel condition.

According to Kevin Schechterle, service director at Gary Rome Hyundai, the tires should be the first things you check before hitting the road. "Based on summer heat, you want them to be inflated properly," he said. "The heat created by the friction between the road and the tire while driving in summer weather may cause your tires to become over-inflated and pop."

 2. Maximize fuel efficiency

You can extend the value of each dollar you pay at the fuel pump by practicing a few fuel-efficient driving techniques. Avoid jackrabbit driving, or aggressive starts and stops, because a heavy foot on the gas and brake pedals not only uses more gas but also causes more wear and tear on your vehicle. Secondly, slow down. While each type of vehicle is different, fuel efficiency drops off sharply after about 50 miles per hour. The US Department of Energy estimates that, for every five miles per hour you drive over 50, it's like paying 14 extra cents per gallon. Besides, driving slower avoids speeding tickets.

Enabling cruise control may save fuel and make a drive more relaxing, but Schechterle cautions against using cruise control. "Even though cruise control might save on fuel, driving using the throttle keeps the driver more engaged and alert."

3. Gear up with safety gear

Make sure your car is equipped with a properly inflated spare tire with a jack and tools, jumper cables, reflective items and a stocked medical kit. "Most people do not have medical kits in their cars, but it is always a good idea to be prepared for an emergency," said Schechterle.

4. Prepare yourself for the long haul

There is a lot to pack the day before your trip. Make sure you pack essential items, like a cooler full of snacks and drinks, especially when traveling with children. It'll help you avoid making unnecessary stops throughout your travels.

5. Remember to fuel yourself

Drivers also need a good night's sleep to stay alert during the trip. "Don't drive when you're tired," added Schechterle, "and you don't need to rush to your destination."

6. Save your selfies and keep your eyes on the road

More than a quarter of all car accidents in the United States are caused by cell phone use, according to a study by the National Safety Council. Your friends and family care more about you getting safely to your destination than a selfie behind the wheel.

7. Enjoy the moment

Vacation getaways can be few and far between. Make the most of your time.

"You can make the road trip a fun part of your vacation if you stop to take breaks and take in the sights along the way," said Schechterle.

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