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Family Car Advice: Tips For Safe Summer Driving


2011 Honda Odyssey Touring

2011 Honda Odyssey Touring

With family members clamoring for summer road trips, besides putting the itinerary together and packing for the getaway, keep in mind that how you drive on the road can make a world of difference in making sure you arrive at your destination and back safely. Here are the top tips for safe summer driving.

Screencap from 2011 Toyota Sienna ad campaign

Screencap from 2011 Toyota Sienna ad campaign

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Secure everything in and on the car. Sudden moves you have to make behind the wheel can cause unsecured gear and objects to go flying about the car. And when it’s a family road trip, there’s usually lots of extra cargo to deal with. Before heading out, make sure to secure everything that’s loose so it doesn’t become flying projectile en route. This includes that box of CDs or movies to entertain the kids, games, liter bottles of water or soda, even items you’re carrying along to use at your vacation destination, like a boombox or boogie board. While you're at it, make sure everyone in the vehicle is buckled up, including children in car seats.

Maintain a safe space. Hours on the road can cause drivers to become lax, creeping up on the vehicle ahead. That’s a dangerous practice. Tailgating not only could box you in, but there’s not enough room to stop safely in an emergency – such as when the car in front slams on the brakes or swerves to avoid hitting something in the road. Use the old two-second rule. Observe as the car ahead of you passes some object, such as a mile marker or speed-limit sign. Count one-thousand-one, one-thousand-two. If you pass the same object before you finish counting one-thousand-two, you’re too close. It’s time to back off. A few seconds won’t make any real difference in getting the family to your destination – but it could make all the difference in whether you arrive there safely.

2011 Ford F-150 towing a trailer

2011 Ford F-150 towing a trailer

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Respect larger vehicles and treat them like big rigs. You know that big rigs and tractor trailers are slower to respond, have huge blind spots, often can’t see drivers right behind them and require a much larger turning radius. Use the same caution when encountering recreational vehicles and cars, SUVs and trucks towing boats or trailers.

2011 Chevrolet Traverse

2011 Chevrolet Traverse

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Watch out for pedestrians, bikers, joggers, bladers and others on the road. The roads aren’t only used by vehicles, not anymore and not by a long shot. Use diligence and keep checking for others sharing the road with you. These include, but aren’t limited to, bikers, joggers, bladers, people on golf carts and pedestrians. Maybe they shouldn’t be in the roadway, but if they are, be prepared to deal with them appropriately. Here’s how:

  • Slow down and give yourself extra room to pass them.
  • When you need to make a right turn, look both ways before you accelerate. There are many bicyclists that ride against the traffic.
  • Don’t lay on the horn to warn bikers you’re there. That may scare them into losing control.

BMW's 'Don't Text and Drive' ad

BMW's 'Don't Text and Drive' ad

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Manage driver distractions. Avoid the temptation to “tune out” by becoming engrossed in a cellphone conversation or trying to text while driving. In fact, turn off the cellphone and park it in the glove compartment or someplace you can’t get it. Be careful when changing the radio station or CD. Eating and drinking while driving are also distractions that could easily prove disastrous. Ditto if you’re talking too much to your passengers. It only takes seconds of your eyes off the road to cause an accident. See our top tips to manage distracted driving here.

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