Irving, Texas – August 1, 2014 – Back-to-school season is upon us, and road safety should be a priority. Whether you're a student driving to high school for the first time, or you're a student heading out on your first solo road trip back to college, National Motor Club (NMC), one of the largest independently owned motor clubs in the nation, wants to make sure that your trip is stress-free.
Younger drivers should be especially cautious since traffic congestion typically grows with the end of summer, with increased traffic at peak travel times. One regional study in the Washington, D.C. area, for example, found that average daily traffic delays increased by 26 percent from August to September. With more cars on the road after the summer vacation it's even more important during the school year to focus on driving safety.
With that in mind, below are some important pre-trip and on-the-road tips for young drivers heading back to school. For more information about back-to-school safety or to sign up for an NMC roadside assistance plan, visit nmc.com/back2school.
- Get a good night's sleep - According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), driving while drowsy is a contributing factor in 100,000 accidents annually. Drive only when well rested, and switch off with another driver every few hours, if possible, if on a long road trip back to campus.
- Become familiar with your route - Before you hit the road, be sure to map out your main route and identify resting and eating stops. You should also become familiar with alternate routes in case construction or inclement weather conditions make it necessary for you to take a detour.
- Charge your cell phone - Be sure to charge your phone before you travel, and take along a car charger or a protective phone case with a built-in-charger, so your cell phone will be fully powered up in case of an emergency.
- Freshen your fluids and filters - Take care of the basics like changing your motor oil, oil filter, air filter and radiator coolant. This simple maintenance can save on costly repairs and keep you from being unnecessarily stranded.
- Check your tires - Inflate your tires to the air pressure recommended by the manufacturer, which can be found on the inside of the driver's door. Also, inspect the tread on your tires, as any signs of wear, like little or no tread, or visible threads, can signal that tires need to be replaced. Most state laws require you to maintain a tread depth of at least 2/32". For an easy gauge, place the edge of a penny (with Lincoln's head facing you, but upside down) into several tread grooves across the tire. If the top part of Lincoln's head is always covered by the tread, you have more than 2/32" of tread depth remaining.
- Wear your seat belt - Putting on your seat belt should be the first thing you do when you get in the car. Plus, in most places, it's the law - for drivers and for passengers!
- Avoid distractions while driving:
- Refrain from texting and making phone calls while driving - Before starting the engine, make sure you have made all necessary phone calls and text messages. Put your phone on silent so as not to be distracted if it rings and tempted to take your eyes off of the wheel to answer. If you need to make or answer a call, pull off the road to a safe place first.
- Plan meals accordingly - Whenever possible, avoid eating or drinking while driving. Pull over and stop in a parking lot for a few minutes if you need a snack or beverage. At the very least, avoid messy foods that are particularly likely to cause spills and unwanted distractions.
- In the event of an emergency:
- Move your vehicle off the road - If you have to pull over, make sure your vehicle is fully off the road. Never park on the shoulder or in the breakdown lane for any reason except an emergency. Use extreme caution if you need to exit your vehicle, and be sure to turn your hazard lights on so you're clearly visible to approaching traffic.
- Have a roadside assistance plan - Managing a breakdown, like changing a flat tire, is dangerous enough on its own, much less on a busy highway. Taking extra precautions in such instances is a must, for safety's sake. National Motor Club urges you to have a roadside assistance provider ready to call, to help ensure your safety. Make sure you have your provider's toll-free number in your wallet, purse, glove compartment and/or cell phone. If you do not have a roadside assistance plan, join NMC today!