Beginning on May 23, more than 36 million people will hit the road during Memorial Day weekend in 2014. According to AAA, travel this weekend will be the second busiest in 14 years. An improving economy and steady or falling gas prices are helping to fuel the mass exodus to sunny locales. With 9 of 10 travelers opting to drive at least 50 miles away, the experts at Drive Smart Georgia are offering tips to stay safe on the road over Memorial Day weekend.
“When people hit the road in mass, it can be a deadly time, especially for inexperienced teen drivers,” states Steve Jones, co-owner of Drive Smart Georgia. “In fact, Memorial Day weekend kicks off the 100 deadliest days for teens,” he adds. According to the National Safety Council, the days between Memorial Day and Labor Day are 100 of the deadliest for teen drivers. During this period, hundreds of teenagers die on the roads. “It’s important for parents to set rules and stick with them, especially in the summer” Jones adds.
With Memorial Day travel expected to be very heavy, Drive Smart Georgia offers the following tips to ensure a safe journey.
Practice safe driving
Leave yourself plenty of time to get to your destination and don’t forget to buckle up. Observe the speed limit, be well rested and alert, don’t follow cars too closely, and make frequent stops or rotate drivers.
Limit the distractions
One of the most dangerous distractions is using your cell phone while driving. Give the phone to a passenger and let them do the talking, or wait until you make a travel stop for gas or to use the restroom and make your calls then.
Make sure your vehicle is road ready
If it’s time for an oil change, make sure to get one before heading out on a long Memorial Day car trip. Also, check the pressure in all four tires and make sure the windshield fluid is full. Give your vehicle the once over, or have it checked out by a local and trustworthy mechanic. It’s absolutely no fun being stranded in an auto shop in a strange locale.
Avoid the most popular highways if at all possible
Navigating the highways presents its own set of challenges during the extended Memorial Day weekend. Traffic can choke heavily traveled routes, like the I-95 corridor on the East Coast, adding hours to generally speedy trips. Try to avoid the busiest highways, especially on the Friday before Memorial and the holiday itself.
Pack for the kids
Nothing can distract a parent driver more than a carload of cranky kids who become bored too quickly. Portable DVD players (some with dual screens), iPods, coloring books and crayons, picture books, portable board games with magnetic pieces can all help pass the time. Make sure everything is within easy reach. Don’t forget to load up pillows and blankets. Sleeping children are quiet children.
Plan your route, but have a Plan B available
Map out your route beforehand, but make sure you have a GPS, smartphone or a map in the car in case a road is blocked. If this happens along your journey, activate Plan B to avoid unnecessary delays.
Be aware of changing weather conditions
Springtime weather can be tricky at times. While it’s sunny and warm in one place, it can be rainy or nasty in another. When traveling this weekend, be sure to check the weather forecast before heading out.
Fill the tank before leaving home
Gas is more expensive at stations located right off the highway. Fill your tank at home and when it’s time to fill up again, look for stations that are located about ½-1 mile off the interstate. By driving a few extra minutes, you can save about $6-$10 on a fill-up. The good news is that gas prices are steady or even lower than last Memorial Day.
Traveling families often take along a lot of extra baggage. Make sure you don’t weigh your vehicle down too much. For any excess items that won’t fit in the trunk, a rooftop carrier is a good option, but be sure everything is tied down securely.
Pack an emergency kit
Even if you have an emergency road assistance plan, if you get stuck, you may have to wait hours because of the sheer number of travelers on the road. So, carry some essentials in your trunk or hatch. Jumper cables, a foam tire sealant, a jack and lug wrench could all come in handy when a problem arises. Consumer Reports offers a list of what to include in your roadside emergency kit.
A little preparation can go a long way to ensure a safe, stress-free Memorial Day road trip.
If you’re the parent of a new teen driver, Drive Smart Georgia also offers the following safety tips for teens and their concerned parents.
The longest 500 miles for teens and parents
A teenager’s first 500 miles of driving are the most dangerous. During that time, they’re 10 times more likely to crash than an adult. Set rules and enforce them.
No friends in the car for the first 6 months
The presence of one passenger doubles the fatal crash risk for a teen driver and the risk increases with each additional passenger, yet recent research shows that few teens recognize the impact passengers have on driver safety.
25% of accidents are caused by TEXTING
Put that cell phone down! Most teens follow similar driving habits of their parents. So, drive the speed limit, don’t use your cell phone (reading emails included, even at stop lights) and keep it safe on the road.
Don’t let your teen drive whenever they want
Teens with easy access to a vehicle are more likely to crash than those who have to “ask for permission” and have a more structured approach.
About Drive Smart Georgia
Located in Alpharetta and Johns Creek, Drive Smart Georgia offers driving lessons for teens, defensive driving courses, one-on-one in-car lessions, and on-site road tests.