Dunedin, Fla. – It seems every summer there are two things you can count on in Florida, someone claiming its the “hottest summer ever” and more and more families taking to the roads for summertime adventures. As someone who plays captain when we embark on our four wheeled adventures, keeping my precious cargo safe until we arrive is imperative. Dealing with Florida drivers professionally for almost 20 years, I’d like to go over some common, and some sometimes forgotten tips that will spare you from dealing with the consequences of a breakdown—or worse yet, a highway crash.
If you live here you won’t be surprised by this number. We have all dealt with the congestion in some part of the Sunshine state. The growing Peninsula we all call paradise has almost 17.5 million drivers on the road. Equally being split between men and women. [Numbers as of 1/1/2019 credit D.H.M.V.] Traveling throughout Florida can be just as fun as getting to your destination, and during the summer those roads can sometimes be the busiest in the country.
The Pre Trip
Some of the most important things you can do to have a safe road trip happen before you ever leave the house. Regular maintenance such as tune-ups, oil changes, battery checks, and tire rotations go a long way toward preventing breakdowns. If your vehicle has been serviced according to the manufacturer’s recommendations, it should be in good condition to travel.
Visual Inspection – Part of our training as professional drivers was a “pre trip” visual inspection EVERY DAY. Even if you keep your vehicle well maintained, a visual inspection right before you leave is important. In most cases you will be taking your vehicle on a longer than normal road trip, usually at faster speeds, and sometimes in less than ideal weather conditions. Here are a few key things to check before you leave
Check your vehicle’s tire pressure when your tires are cold (when the car hasn’t been driven for three hours or more)—and don’t forget to check your spare. You can find the correct pressure for your tires on a label on the driver’s door pillar or doorframe or in the vehicle owner’s manual—the correct pressure for your vehicle is NOT the number listed on the tire itself. fact, underinflation is the leading cause of tire failure. Do a visual check for any uneven wear or objects that may have pierced the tire.
Make sure all the lights on your vehicle are in working order. Check your headlights, brake lights, turn signals, emergency flashers, and interior lights. Towing a trailer? We all have seen it, no turn signals, or worse no brake lights! Be sure you check your trailer. A failure of the trailer light connection is a common problem and a serious safety hazard.
Yep, I know it sounds silly, but in some cases it is your fastest and only way to make communication to another driver. So give it a few taps, and make sure it works!
On The Road
PLAN! – Remember, a long trip can take a toll on children—and, in turn, be trying on you. Plan enough time to stop along the way to stretch, get something to eat and drink, and of course, bathroom breaks! There is always someplace cool to check out when traveling the Sunshine state. It can make your trip easier and less tiring for everyone—and more of an adventure, too.
Share The Road – Summer months attracts many types of roadway users, including motorcyclists, bicyclists, and pedestrians.
While they have the same rights, privileges and responsibilities as every motorist, these road users are more vulnerable because they do not have the protection of a car or truck.
Leave more distance between you and a motorcycle—3 or 4 seconds worth. Motorcycles are much lighter than other vehicles and can stop in much shorter distances.
Always signal your intentions before changing lanes or merging with traffic. This allows other road users to anticipate your movement and find a safe lane position.
Be mindful of pedestrians. Things to remember as a driver:
- You can encounter pedestrians anytime and anywhere.
- Distracted walking is becoming part of the distracted traffic epidemic. Keep your eyes open for distracted pedestrians.
- Pedestrians can be very hard to see – especially in bad weather or at night.
- Stop for pedestrians who are in a crosswalk, even if it’s not marked. This will help drivers in the other lanes see the pedestrians in time to stop.
- Cars stopped in the street may be stopped to allow pedestrians to cross. Do not pass if there is any doubt.
- Do not assume that pedestrians can see you or that they will act predictably. They may be distracted, or physically or mentally impaired.
- When you are turning and waiting for a “gap” in traffic, watch for pedestrians who may have moved into your intended path.
- Be especially attentive around schools and in neighborhoods where children are active. Drive the way you want people to drive in front of your own home.
Stay Cool When Things Heat Up – No matter how eager you are to get to your destination, speeding and driving aggressively is dangerous. This is also why it is important to always stay aware of your surroundings and how others are behaving while sharing the road.
If you observe aggressive driving:
- Don’t engage with the driver (this can result in road rage);
- Dial *FHP (*347) from your cell phone or 911 for local law enforcement;
- If possible, get the license plate and/or a brief description of the vehicle (color, type, doors, etc.);
- There is nothing wrong with safely pulling over and allowing distance between you and the aggressive driver, but think safety first always.
When traveling in certain congested areas PATIENCE IS KEY! Constant lane changing, sudden speeding up and stopping behavior as well as driving on the shoulder should ALL be avoid. Instead, plan on those areas taking longer and stay patient. It shows your road trip companions “all is good”.
You Have Arrived
Do Not Leave Children or Pets in a Car- For the safety of your children and pets, never leave a child or pet unattended in a vehicle, even for a short period of time. I wish I didn’t even have to add this line, but it seems to be a growing epidemic in a distracted world. So as excited as everyone is about arriving, make sure everyone is accounted for when you get out of the car. Larger parties can even assign buddies to make sure they can account for each other.
Secure your valuables – I can not say this enough, “out of sight out of mind“. Leaving items like suitcases, purses, cameras, electronics,in plan site is just silly. In many cases, the thieves are already targeting touristy spots, don’t give them any reason to make you a victim. Many SUV and crossover manufacturers make pull covers so that your items in the back are not visible to others. In sedans many cars come with locks to deny access to the pop trunk feature. Again, adding that extra step of security can be that deterrent, and not putting a damper on your adventure.
Sometimes it pays to “pay” – In many cases you might be a first time visitor to the area. If you did your planning, you know if it is advised to park in certain areas or paid parking lots. Although many paid lots do have disclaimers stating they are still not responsible for theft, it is just one more step a thief has to take to be successful in taking advantage of your outing.
Don’t forget about me – If you have an extended stay at one of the many amazing places to visit, it is a good idea to pay your vehicle a visit every so often. In some cases maybe even give it a start and let the engine run for a few. I can’t tell you ow many times I have been leaving a resort and seeing numerous cars needing a jump. This also would be a good time to check that fuel gage. You just took a road trip, refueling and knowing where a station is to get your pit stop done before it’s to late will show the gang why you are “The Captain”.
Have Fun Making Memories
Of the many great things about summertime, few match the fun of a family road trip. Being positive, attentive and safe will help you make great memories for many years and miles to come.