‘Tis the season to be jolly and deck the halls with boughs of holly – and so on. While the lyrics and melodies of popular holiday songs seem to permeate this time of year, it’s also a time of high stress, too much traffic, too little time to get everything done, and all sorts of other negative tendencies that come out under pressure. When you’re going to be travelling, however, you need to take the utmost care. Here are our 10 best tips for a safe, road-worthy holiday.

  1. Make your car king of the road. Your vehicle may not be the newest car around, but you can take precautions to ensure it’s ready for travel near and far. Get a tune-up, tend to the air in the tires, check all the fluid levels and make sure the heater, windshield wipers, defroster and other critical systems are functioning properly.
  1. The only tank that should be topped off is in your car. It goes without saying, but we’ll say it anyway: Don’t drink and drive – ever. This is especially true during the holidays when the temptation to have “just one” makes good sense and a pledge to drive sober go right out the window. The truth is that you need all your wits about you to be able to drive safely during this time of the year, what with uncertain weather conditions, thoughtless or careless (or drunk) other drivers on the road, and other travel hazards.
  1. Lock away valuables – even if you plan to be out of the car a short time. Why let the Grinch spoil Christmas by stealing those carefully shopped for presents and other valuables you figured would be just fine while you dashed into the store for a last-minute item? Never leave anything valuable in sight of would-be thieves – who are lurking in parking lots and on streets waiting for the clueless to abandon common sense.
  1. Check the weather before you go. Winter is naturally unpredictable. While the roadway may be clear and dry now, somewhere along your route of travel things may get pretty dicey fairly quickly. A blizzard is not only treacherous to try to drive in, it may cause you and your party to become stranded – possibly for an extended period of time. This could result in a tragedy. Check the weather on the TV, radio, or Internet – or use an app on your phone to get instant updates. If you know you’ll encounter stormy weather, use extra caution on the road.
  1. Be on the lookout for wildlife on the road. Drivers should always expect the unexpected – in terms of wildlife such as deer and other four-legged creatures darting into the roadway. This is especially likely in heavily wooded and hilly areas and in certain parts of the country. Know how to react when you see an animal either already in the road or by the side of the road. It isn’t by sharply swerving. That can cause an accident with oncoming traffic or cause you to lose control of your vehicle. It’s best to brake firmly and slow the vehicle to lessen the severity of impact.
  1. Make safety the first priority. Maybe you’re in a mad dash to get to your destination on time, but use some common sense. Pay attention to traffic rules, slow your speed and always make sure each vehicle occupant is properly secured with appropriate seatbelts and child safety seats.
  1. Get your long winter’s nap before heading out on the road. Driving when you’re tired is a definite no-no. Staring at the roadway for long miles and hours isn’t going to make you any less tired, but it will dramatically increase the likelihood of getting in an accident. The smart way to avoid this is to get a good night’s rest before you get in the car to travel.
  1. Maybe wait until morning to return home. Too often people stay at a destination – like a family gathering – late into the evening and then head out on the road to return home. Driving at night – even in relatively dry and safe conditions – is risky. You never know what you might encounter, visibility is often poor, you could have a mechanical breakdown and help is unavailable, and there’s just too much at stake. It might be a wise idea to wait until the next morning to make that trip home. You’ll be better rested and it will be daylight.
  1. Watch out for too many distractions. Singing along with the kids might help pass the time during a holiday road trip, but be careful of too many distractions. Don’t be tempted to check your texts, email, make or take calls, eat, drink, reach for items that have fallen to the floor, try to resolve a dispute with the children, stretch your legs, change the radio station or try to reposition seats or mirrors while you’re driving. Distracted driving is a leading cause of accidents, often fatal.
  1. Get into a toasty car. There’s nothing worse than climbing into a frigid car when it’s time to get out on the road. It doesn’t take all that long to warm up the vehicle ahead of time. Remote start can do the trick, but if you don’t have this in your vehicle, just go out and turn on the ignition while leaving the car parked and locked. Go back inside and say your good-byes and then pile the family into the car to make your exit.

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