Figuring out a holiday travel route and planning the best getaway time are important in maintaining the good vibe of a vacation, but preparations aren’t complete without focusing on the basic challenge of driving in heavy traffic to unfamiliar places.
While I know all of my readers are above average drivers, it won’t hurt to go over some safety precautions — if only so you can pass them along to others.
These are some common sense suggestions I collected from AAA Mid-Atlantic about handling the heavy demands of summer driving.
Plan. Read maps and check traffic conditions before you get on the road.
Stow electronic devices. Turn off your phone before you drive so you won’t be tempted to use it while on the road. Pull over to a safe place to talk on the phone or to send and receive text messages or e-mails.
Prepare children and pets. Get the children buckled in and situated with snacks and entertainment before you start driving. If they need additional attention during the trip, pull off the road safely to care for them. Similarly, prepare and secure pets inside the vehicle before starting out.
Eat sensibly. Eat meals and snacks before getting behind the wheel, or stop to eat and take a break if driving long-distance. (This is especially important if you’re planning an early morning getaway. Your energy and attention will dissipate quickly if you haven’t eaten.)
Store loose gear. Stash away loose objects that could roll around and take your attention away from driving.
Prepare your vehicle. Adjust seat positions, climate controls, sound systems and other devices before you leave or while your vehicle is stopped. Make sure your headlights are spotless so you can see everything on the road and other drivers can see you.
Dress right beforehand. Your car isn’t a dressing room. Brush your hair, shave, put on make-up, before you leave. (If it was cooler when you started and you need to shed a layer as the day warms, pull over to do that. Don’t try to deal with sleeves while holding the steering wheel.)
Get your brain in the game. Focus on your prime mission: Scan the road, use mirrors and practice commentary driving, identifying orally events and conditions you may have to react to. Focusing on maintaining your thoughts about the road can enhance your engagement, your overall awareness and behavior as a driver.
Evaluate your own behavior. When you’re on the road as a passenger or a pedestrian, take a look around and honestly evaluate whether you might have some of the same driving behaviors as the people you’re worried about.
Enlist passengers. Ask a passenger to help you with activities that would be distracting to you, like reading a map, or finding an object in the vehicle.