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Safety Advisory: NHTSA Encourages Motorists to be Prepared Before Heading Out on Summer Road Trips

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Safety Advisory: NHTSA Encourages Motorists to be Prepared Before Heading Out on Summer Road Trips  

WASHINGTON – As the busy summer driving season begins, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) urges motorists to take simple, yet necessary, precautions to ensure vehicles are in optimal driving condition and appropriately equipped prior to taking to the road. Additionally, NHTSA advises drivers to avoid risky behaviors that could potentially place road users inside and outside of the vehicle in danger.

NHTSA offers the following safety recommendations:

Vehicle Preparation

  • Regular maintenance – Tune-ups, oil changes, battery checks, and tire rotations go a long way toward preventing breakdowns before they happen. If your vehicle has been serviced according to the manufacturer’s recommendations, it should be in good shape and ready to travel. If not, or you don’t know the service history of the vehicle you plan to drive, schedule a preventive maintenance check-up with your mechanic.
  • Tires – The best way to avoid a flat tire or a blowout is to use a tire pressure gauge – keep one handy in your vehicle – to check your vehicle’s tire pressure, including the spare, at least once a month. All tires naturally lose some air over time and under-inflation is the leading cause of tire failure. To get an accurate reading, check pressure when tires are cold, meaning they haven’t been driven on for at least three hours. Find the correct tire pressure on the label inside the driver’s doorframe or in the vehicle owner’s manual as the correct pressure is not the number listed on the tire.  In addition to the safety implications, properly inflated tires can improve gas mileage, thereby saving fuel and energy.
  • Belts and hoses – Look under the hood and inspect all belts and hoses to make sure they are in good shape with no signs of blisters, cracks, or cuts in the rubber. High summer temperatures accelerate the rate at which rubber belts and hoses degrade.  Replace them if they show signs of obvious wear.
  • Wiper blades – Like rubber belts and hoses, wiper blades are susceptible to the summer heat. Clear vision of the road ahead is vital for safe driving. Examine blades for signs of wear and tear. If they aren’t in tip-top condition, install new ones before you go.
  • Cooling system – When the engine is cold, check your engine coolant level to make sure it’s adequate. In addition, if it’s time to have your cooling system flushed and refilled, do it now. You’ll want your cooling system functioning at peak performance to avoid the possibility of your engine overheating.
  • Fluid levels – Periodically check your vehicle’s oil level and, if necessary, get an oil change. Also check the following fluid levels: brake, automatic transmission, power steering, and windshield washer. Make sure each reservoir is full and if you see any sign of fluid leakage, take your vehicle in to be serviced.
  • Lights – Make sure headlights, brake lights, turn signals, emergency flashers, and interior lights are in working order. If you are towing a boat, RV or other item, be sure to check your trailer lights, including brake lights and turn signals, too. Failure of trailer light connections is a common problem and a serious safety hazard.
  • Air conditioning – Check your air conditioning system to ensure it is properly functioning and if the air is not blowing cold, have the system repaired before traveling. Lack of air conditioning on a hot summer day affects people who are in poor health or are sensitive to heat, such as children and seniors.
  • Emergency roadside kit – Even a well-maintained vehicle can break down, and having an emergency roadside kit is important to prepare for the unexpected. Suggested items include: a fully charged cell phone, first aid kit, flashlight, flares and a white flag, jumper cables, nonperishable food, drinking water, and medicines.

For Drivers and Passengers

  • Buckle seat belts, don’t drink and drive, and avoid distractions – All drivers and passengers should wear seat belts every time when traveling in a vehicle. Wearing a seat belt is one of the best defenses to prevent injury and death in a crash. Every 45 minutes someone in the United States dies in an alcohol-impaired-driving crash. Be responsible and don’t drink and drive. If you plan to drink, choose a designated driver before going out. Drivers should always focus on keeping their eyes and attention on the road. According to NHTSA data from 2011, 10 percent of fatal crashes and 17 percent of injury crashes were distracted-affected. Distracted driving can be anything that pulls your attention away from driving, including cell phone use, texting while driving, eating, drinking, talking with passengers, and using in-vehicle technologies and portable electronic devices.
  • Protect child passengers – If you’re traveling with children, remember the best way to protect them in the car is to put them in the right seat, at the right time, and use it the right way. All children 13 and younger should ride in the back seat. Also, to prevent injuries and deaths due to child heatstroke in hot vehicles, never leave a child unattended in a vehicle, even if the windows are partially open or the engine and air conditioning is running. Make a habit of looking in the front and back of the vehicle before locking the door and walking away.
  • Watch for motorcyclists, bicyclists, and pedestrians – Warmer weather typically attracts a greater number of motorcyclists, bicyclists, and pedestrians. These roadway users are more vulnerable since they lack the protection of a car or truck, and collisions almost always result in injury.

Click here for NHTSA’s interactive summer driving tips.

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Updated: Monday, June 10, 2013
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