This Fourth of July holiday will see the highest travel volume on record: An estimated 48.9 million Americans are planning to travel this Independence Day, according to travel-services provider AAA — and 41.4 million of them will be going by car.
Unemployment is low and disposable incomes are on the rise, AAA said, making consumer optimism strong and the desire for leisure even stronger. That, compounded by gas prices nearly 20 cents cheaper per gallon on average than the same time in 2018, have a record number of Americans traveling between July 3 and July 7.
With all of these additional travelers hitting the roads, AAA said it expects to provide services to nearly 367,000 motorists roadside, with the top issues being dead batteries, flat tires and lockouts.
How can you avoid being among those unfortunate travelers who need rescuing? Here are four things to do before you set out on your road trip this Fourth:
1. Prep Your Car
You know the saying about “an ounce of prevention.” The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration performing these safety checks to prevent a disaster while your trip is underway:
- Check the air pressure and tread wear on your tires — and don’t forget the spare (if your car has one).
- Make sure all of the lights are working properly, both on your vehicle and anything you’re towing.
- If it’s almost time for an oil change, get one before you head out. On a similar note, double-check all your fluid levels.
- Inspect belts and hoses for wear. Summer temperatures make rubber degrade faster, so replace them if they’re looking tired. Same goes for your wiper blades.
- Perhaps most importantly to you and your passengers this hot summer holiday, make sure your air conditioning is functioning properly.
A basic safety inspection may not reveal everything that’s wrong (or could go wrong) with your car, so take your vehicle in to get serviced before you take off, and don’t forget to check for safety recalls.
2. Stock Your Roadside Emergency Kit
Yes, you need one, even if it means that you have to pack a little lighter otherwise. NHTSA suggests yours should include the following:
- Phone charger
- First-aid kit
- Flashlight and backup batteries
- Flares and a white flag
- Jumper cables
- Tire-pressure gauge — and a jack and wheel wrench for changing the tire if you have a spare
- Nonperishable food and drinking water
- Blankets, towels and rain ponchos
- Emergency contact numbers for family, roadside services and your insurance provider
- Basic repair tools
- And, of course, duct tape
3. Plan for Delays
Record-level drivers on the road likely means record-level delays. Inrix, a global mobility analytics company, has predicted that delays could be four times that of a normal commute in and around major metro areas this holiday, and 9 percent higher than normal nationwide. July 3 will be the worst day on the road, especially if you’re planning to travel in the afternoon, as commuters and holiday travelers mix to cause congestion.
4. Keep Safety First
Remind your passengers to buckle up, and don’t forget to do so yourself. All children under 13 should ride in the backseat. Make sure all car seats and booster seats are appropriate for your child’s size. Most important: Never leave a child unattended in a car. On an 80-degree day, temperatures inside a car can reach deadly levels in just minutes — yes, even if you leave the windows rolled down.
The only thing the driver should be focusing on is driving, so change drivers if you’re losing your attention or feeling drowsy, or stop off at a rest area or hotel. Make sure the kids are occupied enough with books, games or tech to keep them from distracting you. Be on the lookout for motorcyclists, bicyclists and pedestrians who are also taking advantage of the warmer weather. Lastly, celebrate the red, white and blue responsibly and never drive while impaired by drugs or alcohol.
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