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Summertime heat is here and with temperatures rising to the 100s, getting to your vacation destination and back safely is a top priority. During long-distance rides, vehicles and drivers are pushed harder in the scorching heat. It’s important to keep your vehicle and yourself in top shape before taking any trip, short or long. Getting lost can be embarrassing and can induce unnecessary stress. If necessary, plan your trips accordingly and try to avoid unusual road closures and traffic jams.

Photo by Cpl. William J. Jackson

Tips drivers should know before hitting the road

7 Jun 2013 | Cpl. William Jackson

Summertime heat is here and with temperatures rising to the 100s, getting to your vacation destination and back safely is a top priority.

During long-distance rides, vehicles and drivers are pushed harder in the scorching heat. It’s important to keep your vehicle and yourself in top shape before taking any trip, short or long.

Getting lost can be embarrassing and can induce unnecessary stress. If necessary, plan your trips accordingly and try to avoid unusual road closures and traffic jams.

 

Check your vehicle before the trip:

 

There are a few things travelers should check on their car before the trip, what to take on the trip and how to stay safe during the trip.

n Tires – Air pressure, tread wear, spare-tire maintenance

Make sure the air pressure in all your tires are at a consistent level, especially the spare tire. Correct tire pressure for the tires is listed inside the driver’s doorframe or in the owner’s manual, not on the tire itself. Continue to check the tread on each tire. If the tread is worn down to less than 1/16 inches, it is time to replace the tires. Also, inspect the tires for excessive or irregular wear, a tire rotation or alignment might be needed. The friction from the tires and the hot road temperatures can wear down tires quicker in the summertime.

n Belts, hoses and wiper blades – Condition and fitting

High temperatures can speed up the deterioration of rubber belts and hoses. Cracks, cuts and blisters can appear when a replacement is needed. Double check connections to make sure all of the fittings are secure. Small adjustments can save a lot of money instead of full replacements.

Wiper blades go through rigorous climate changes and extreme wear during the spring and winter months. If noticeable cracking and splitting is apparent, invest in a new pair before hitting the road.

n Cooling system and fluid levels – servicing and levels: oil, brake, transmission, power steering, coolant and windshield.

Vehicles overheat, especially in hotter climates. To combat over heating engine temperatures, check coolant levels to make sure it’s at a sufficient level. In addition, look into flushing the coolant system completely and refilling it to the proper level. This goes with oil, brake, transmission, power steering and windshield fluid levels. Make sure each reservoir is full and if there are any leaking fluids, take the vehicle in to be serviced.

n Lights – Headlights, brake lights, turn signals, emergency flashers and interior lights

Check everything for serviceability. Common problems are brake lights and turn signals. Failure to see vehicles is a common problem and a serious safety hazard. Not having a functional light can also lead to a ticket.

n Air Conditioning – performance

Lack of air conditioning on summer days can adversely affect people who are in poor health. Check to ensure that your air conditioning system is functioning properly. Consider repairing before taking a trip.

 

What to take:

 

Some passengers focus on making sure they have the necessary entertainment like movies and music before their trip kicks off. Most importantly, understand the appropriate safety precautions for travel.

n Child Safety Seats:

Some children may be required to use safety or booster seats. Ensure the vehicle has enough room to properly fit the necessary safety equipment. To learn more, visit www.booster-seat.gov and click on “Which seat is right for my child?”

n Emergency Roadside Kit:

There are cases where even the most maintained car breaks down. In this case, having an emergency roadside kit can help ease troubles in extreme situations. Items to have in a kit include a cell phone and charger, first-aid kit, flashlight, flares, jumper cables, maps, batteries, food and water.

 

On the road:

 

Traveling can be half of the fun on road trips, but be aware of distractions that can take attention away from the road. As a driver, there will always be distractions. Counter them with safe driving techniques and stay focused on the road. Advise someone of the trip and route you are taking. Avoid texting and talking on cell phones, even talking on a headset can provide a level of distraction.

n Staying Focused:

Avoid fatigue. Schedule frequent stops and breaks to allow everyone to reset and stretch their legs. If traveling for a few days, alternate drivers if possible or set up an overnight stay at a motel. Stay alert.

n Traveling With Children:

Combat the frequently ask question, “Are we there yet?” Keep children entertained with books, music, toys and games. The trip will be much more memorable if stress levels are low.

n Buckle Up:

Buckling up is the most effective safety measure to take while driving.

Safety on the road is paramount and the Department of Defense is encouraging leaders to continue to hold their junior counterparts accountable. Plan accordingly for vacation destinations and enjoy the summer.


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Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms