Operation Safe Holiday: Preparing for a road trip

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — Thanksgiving is one of the busiest times of the year on the roads, and also one of the deadliest.

“When you get in your vehicle and get behind the wheel, you need to focus on one thing: getting to your destination safely,” Garrett Townsend, with AAA South, said.

It sounds like a no-brainer, but consider how important it is when about 50 Million Americans will be traveling – most of them by car.

“We always tell people to pack their patience so that you have realistic expectations,” said Townsend. “It’s just going to take longer to get where you want to go.”

The Holidays should be a happy time and we want to help keep them that way, but there is an average of 100 traffic deaths per day.

“I would say that the danger is really heightened this time of year,” said Townsend. “One is because there are more people on the road and two it’s a time of celebration, but for some that celebration includes alcohol and driving which is a deadly combination.”

Townsend also said distracted driving crashes are among the biggest issues – especially with drivers so attached to their devices. He said a little preparation goes a long way.

“Get the station that you want on the radio or plug in your device in advance with your music that you want,” said Townsend. “Do all of that before you put that vehicle in drive and get on the road.”

And even before that, you need to make sure your car is road ready. We asked Michael Schwarz, the owner of Victory Car Care in Savannah, about where to start.

Schwarz said air pressure in the tires is the most overlooked thing and you should check it with a digital gauge before the trip when the tires are cold.

“Air pressure changes. If you start out at 32 pounds of air on a cool day and you drive on the road, they can get as much as 35, 36 pounds of air just from that change in temperature,” said Schwarz. “That’s why this time of year tire pressure lights are coming on because of the change in temperatures.”

He said you should fill your tires to the pressure recommended on the door jam and not the number listed on the tire. Another concern is the tread.

“The old school thing about putting a quarter in there and seeing if the head shows, that really doesn’t fly anymore,” said Schwarz. “It’s just common sense. If you can see good tread on the tire, it’s going to be safe in the water.”

And then, he said you should check the tires for cracks, bubbles and bruises. When that’s done, move on the wiper blades.

“The wiper blades, they’re so easy to tell if they’re bad. You just look at them and if they’re leaning over, cracked or tearing, they’ve got to go,” Schwarz said.

Schwarz said the most common reason cars break down if overheating from lack of coolant. You need to check the reservoir and make sure it’s filled to the proper level.

“It can be a clean red or a clean green. As long as it’s clean, everything’s good,” said Schwarz. “Because that is the most common reason cars break down on the road.”

For AAA recommendations about how car seats should be properly installed, click here.

For 13 more tips to avoid distracted driving, click here.

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