Are you one of the 32.4 million Americans who will be traveling at least 50 miles from home this holiday weekend? If so, you may find some travel bargains - at least in comparison to last year. According to AAA, the average gas price is not expected to top $2.50 over the summer - a big drop from last year's price, which averaged about $3.80 on Memorial Day. AAA also reports that hotel rates are running about 7% to 12% less than last year.
The National Safety Council (NSC) reminds you to buckle up and drive defensively. NSC estimates there will be 366 traffic fatalities and an additional 19,400 nonfatal disabling injuries. And remember, from May 18 to May 31, the Click It or Ticket seat belt enforcement campaign will be in full force - law enforcement agencies join forces day and night, from coast-to-coast, for an enforcement blitz. The primary audience continues to be men ages 18 to 34, which research shows are less likely to wear seat belts.
Here are some holiday driving safety tips:
- Plan your trip before you go. Check the clickable map for national traffic and road closure information from the federal Highway Administration. Also, check to see if you can dial 511 to access traveler information in the state of your destination.
- Prepare your car. Ideally, you should have your car checked before long road trips. At minimum, check your gas, oil, windshield wiper fluid and tire pressure. Clean headlights and mirrors. Be sure you have a spare tire and the essentials in a roadside emergency kit.
- Be well rested. Driving can be hypnotic - if you are yawning or having trouble keeping focused, pull over and take a short nap. Even if you aren't sleepy, take a break every few hours to stretch your legs and keep alert.
- Allow extra time to reach your destination. Leave early and plan to avoid peak traffic hours, if possible.
- Wear your seat belt and ensure that all passengers wear theirs.
- Obey speed limits. Speeding is unsafe at the best of times and even more dangerous in heavy holiday traffic. And remember - it's also illegal. Police will be out in force over the long holiday weekend.
- Minimize distractions. Turn off the cell phone and bring games for the kids. Read your maps before you go, or pull over if you need to consult one.
- Don't tailgate. Keep a good distance from the car ahead of you to allow maximum reaction time. A good rule of thumb is one car length for every 10 miles of speed for cars. Double that for trucks.
- Use caution around trucks and large vehicles and give them a much wider berth. Don't pull out in front of them or brake suddenly because trucks require more stopping time. Only change lanes when you can see both of the truck's headlights in your rear view mirror. Be aware that truck divers can have many blind spots - pass on the left not on the right.
- Don't drink and drive. This should go without saying! Also be careful about overindulging in food - that can make you sleepy.
- Plan for emergencies. Bring phone numbers for your insurance agent and your insurer. Make sure your cell phone is fully charged. Bring a spare car key. The University of Oklahoma Police Department has a great emergency checklist that you can print out to ensure that you have all the info you would need should you run into an emergency or have a lost or stolen wallet.