Archive for Thursday, December 22, 2005

Practice safety first on holiday trips

December 22, 2005

The time between Thanksgiving and New Years are some of the heaviest traveled days of the year and there are some things you can do to ensure a safer trip for you and your family. While a white Christmas makes for a great memory, it doesn't present the most ideal driving conditions.

While you should keep your vehicle in top operating condition all year round it is especially important to get it winterized to avoid dangerous situations while traveling in winter weather. Before you depart on your trip, have a qualified mechanic check all the car's vitals: brakes, battery, fluid levels, tire pressure, windshield wipers, light bulbs and any parts that require regular maintenance.

You should bring along emergency equipment, such as a first-aid kit, flashlight, blankets, drinking water and snacks. A small shovel, extra windshield washer fluid, flares, jumper cables, an ice scraper and chains for the tires may also come in handy.

The following suggestions, compiled from a variety of sources, could help ensure that you make it safely to your travel destinations.

¢ Get plenty of sleep before a long trip.

¢ Allow enough time for the trip so you are not rushed.

¢ If you have a cell phone, be sure to have it fully charged and take it with you.

¢ All passengers should wear a safety belt.

¢ Make sure everything is securely stowed when you pack your vehicle. Even small objects can become dangerous missiles in the event of a sudden stop.

¢ Keep the gasoline tank at least half full at all times.

¢ Clear snow and ice from all windows, lights, hood and roof before driving.

¢ Drive with your headlights on.

¢ Take frequent breaks on longer trips.

¢ Reduce your speed. Drive at a speed that matches the visibility, traffic, and road conditions. Posted speed limits are for dry, clear conditions.

¢ Watch for slick spots under bridges and on overpasses.

¢ Don't use your cruise control or overdrive when it's freezing (or colder). Even roads that appear clear can have isolated slippery spots and the short touch of your brakes to deactivate cruise control can cause you to lose control of your vehicle. With overdrive, as you encounter a hill your vehicle automatically accelerates or downshifts, which can cause loss of traction.

¢ Do not eat, drink or use a cell phone while driving.

¢ Be on the alert for deer crossing the roadways, especially at dawn and dusk.

Have a safe trip!

- Sandy Praeger is the Kansas insurance commissioner.

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