It’s the holiday season, so you might be on the verge of a road trip to see family or friends for the season, or perhaps you’re thinking about a road trip for the spring or summer months and you’re thinking ahead. 

If you’re thinking about a road trip, keep the following safety tips in mind.

Learn How to Share the Road with Big Trucks

When you take a road trip, you’re going to be spending a lot of time on highways and interstates. This might not be a driving environment you’re overly familiar with, and it can come with a host of challenges. For example, there are more than two million people working in the truck industry, meaning you’re likely to be sharing the road with some massive vehicles.

When you’re sharing the road with large trucks and also busses, there are unique challenges and things you need to keep in mind.

First, both large trucks and buses have big blind spots on all sizes. If you’re on a road trip and you can’t see the driver in your side mirrors, it’s safe to assume the driver can’t see you. 

Never drive in a truck’s blind spot, and if you’re going to pass a truck, make sure you can see the driver in your mirror. You shouldn’t linger in their blind spot when passing either, and you should accelerate so you can get past the vehicle quickly. 

It’s very dangerous to cut off a large truck or bus in particular, because you’ll be putting yourself in their blind spot. Even if the driver can see you, it takes them a lot longer to stop, so they might not be able to slow down enough to avoid a crash.  

Get Your Car Tuned Up

If you’re going on a road trip, you might be so excited you forget something very important—the condition of your vehicle.

You should have things like your battery, tires, belts, air conditioner, and fluids checked by a mechanic before you hit the road. If you’re going to be towing anything or you’re driving somewhere very hot, let the mechanic know because you might need motor oil with a higher viscosity. 

Another fun way to remember to make sure your car is in good working order is to follow the TRIP acronym. It stands for Taillights and turn signals, Roadside emergency kit, Inflation pressure, and Penny test. The penny test is a way to determine if your tires have enough tread.

To do this, you put a penny upside down in your tread. If any part of Lincoln’s head is then covered by the tread of your tires, then you’re probably fine to hit the road. Otherwise, you may need new tires. 

If you don’t want to pay a mechanic to do a pre-road trip check of your vehicle, and you have some general automotive knowledge, you’ll also want to look at the following:

Make sure your gas tank is at least half full, and you should make sure you have recently had an oil change. If you don’t get regular oil changes, it can cause your engine to degrade prematurely. 
Transmission fluid keeps your car running for longer. It’s due to be changed every 30,000 miles or every two years. 
Coolant helps prevented boiling and freezing as well as corrosion. 

Plan Your Stops Ahead of Time

If you’re going on a long road trip, you’re going to need to make some overnight stops. You should never drive when you’re fatigued, so don’t push yourself too far at any one time when you’re on a road trip.

If you are going to stop to make reservations ahead of time where you think you’ll be spending the night. Otherwise, you might either be stuck without a place to stay, you might pick a place that’s less than safe, or you could pay more than you would otherwise if you booked ahead of time. 

Pack Your Emergency Kit

So many people make the mistake of not having an emergency kit when they head out for a road trip, but it’s necessary. Things to add to your emergency kit include:

Jumper cables or a lithium-ion battery with jumper cables (make sure you keep the battery charged if you go with this option)
Triangle reflectors, flares or LED flares
First-aid kit
Extra medicines anyone in the car may use
At least a quart of motor oil
A gallon of coolant
A tool kit that includes pliers, screwdrivers and an adjustable wrench
Tire pressure gauge
Tire inflator and sealant
Paper towels
Spray bottle
Washer fluid
Ice scraper
Energy bars or high-calorie snacks
Bottled water
Blankets
Flashlight
Cell phone charger
An old towel

Preparing

You don’t want to be on a road trip and distracted while you’re behind the wheel—that’s one of the most dangerous things you can do. Avoid this by having everything organized and ready to go before you leave.

Have your destinations loaded into your GPS, and have your music ready to go as well. Be prepared to use Bluetooth, and bring a cell phone charger that you can plug into your car. 

Another good rule of thumb frequently overlooked is bringing a set of backup directions in case something happens with your GPS. You can map out your entire route, screenshot and print it. 

To be physically ready, you want to make sure first that you’re well-rested. You should also have a light snack or meal before you hit the road, but not something so heavy it makes you drowsy. You might want to avoid over-caffeinating as well because that may cause you to crash. 

Finally, if someone is going with you on your trip and you can share the driving duties, that’s almost always the best option. This will help you avoid being too fatigued to the point that it becomes a risk. Driving while drowsy is as dangerous as driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, so avoid it if you can on your road trip.