14 Road Trip Safety Tips to Ensure Your Fun Isn’t Interrupted

The Importance of Road Trip Safety

A family road trip can be a great way to spend a few days away. It's less expensive than getting onto a plane, and you can go to a wide range of places. There are plenty of Ontario road trip destinations where you can see the beauty of nature and plenty of cities if you want to remain in a more urban environment. Better yet, many of these places are near each other, potentially allowing you to visit many places on a multi-day adventure. However, it's not all fun and games. You could easily be in a dangerous situation if you don't plan ahead. You can be ahead of the game with these road trip safety tips.

1. Get Your Car Ready For A Long Trip

While this may seem obvious, it's also critical that you get this right. A long road trip can do a number on an unprepared car. If your vehicle needs to have its oil or tires changed soon or is due for an inspection, getting this done early is one of the best precautions you can take. Also, ensure things like wiper blades, seat belts, air conditioning, and other little things are in working condition. Also, to be safe, ensure you have the proper car insurance.

2. Plan And Know The Route

Improvising might be fun on a theatre stage, but it's not something that you want to make a habit out of when driving. It might be called a road trip, but most of the fun comes off the road, and you want to make sure you have enough time to do all the planned activities. You should plan out your route in advance. Something like Google Maps is a great way to get routes (and alternate routes) to and from your destination. However, if you want to make your way there, like the low-tech option, or want to take the scenic route, there's nothing wrong with using a traditional map with a pen and paper to make your own way there. Speaking of which...

3. Keep A Map Handy

While you can use a paper map, one online, or both just to be safe, you should bring at least one. It doesn't matter if you're a genius navigator or can't tell the difference between Ottawa and Oshawa; one wrong turn can leave you wondering where you're going. Having a map is one of the best road trip safety tips since it can help prevent such an incident. If you're going the low-tech route, a compass is also recommended.

4. Know The Weather Of Where You Are Going

Knowing what the skies and road conditions will be like is one of the most critical road trip safety tips. This, however, has two parts involved in this. Not only do you want to know what the weather is generally like at your destination, but you also want to know the daily weather report for both there and what it'll be like on the way. Icy roads, wind and rain, snow, thunderstorms, and temperature extremes in either direction can profoundly affect driving conditions. This isn't to say that you should never venture out if it's not sunny. If you never took the risk of bad weather, you'd never leave the house. What this is saying is that it's best to at least have a general idea of what weather you'll be facing in the next 24 hours or so. If you don't like what you're facing, you can take a break and wait for it to pass, find an alternate route,. Keep in mind that traveling in winter can also make things more difficult.

5. Understand Laws Where You're Going

Every place has its own traffic laws. For example, covering up your license plate, throwing litter out the window, or having a dog on your lap while driving in Ontario are all illegal. Now, most of these seem like good safety laws; there are bound to be a few weird little laws you don't know about. In addition, it's best to be aware of all these laws.

6. Have Spares of Important Things

One of the most common situations that could come up is something breaking, being stolen, or otherwise no longer functioning part-way through the trip. Since flat tires are always a threat, the advice of bringing a spare tire will probably never go out of style. Unless you want to risk driving a glorified 200-horsepower, 5-seater tricycle with unbalanced wheels for a few hours, you should probably bring that extra tire. Things like extra gas and a second phone to call for help if something goes wrong would also be good ideas.

7. Pack an Emergency Car Kit

The old advice of "buy something before you need it" rings true in almost every situation. It's good for your living space, suitable for your hobbies, and a great road trip safety tip. Packing something beforehand is a much better idea than scrambling for it the moment it becomes needed. Simply put, there's usually not enough time to run to the store in a life-or-death situation. One overlooked road trip safety tip is ensuring you are prepared with everything you need in either an emergency, or just to solve an inconvenience. All of the following are good ideas to bring.

  • A First Aid Kit or Other Emergency Kit
  • Emergency Blankets
  • Batteries
  • A Flashlight
  • A Reflective Vest
  • A Swiss Army Knife or Other Versatile Multitool (note: careful with this one)
  • A Phone or Other Communication Device To Contact a Friend, Family Member, or Roadside Assistance if You Need to.
  • Refillable Water Bottles
  • Granola Bars or Other Non Perishable Food
  • Spare Clothes
  • A Cell Phone Charger
  • Duct Tape

8. Have Appropriate Entertainment For The Kids

Any parent who's been in a car with their child for more than half an hour knows how annoying it is to be asked, "Are we there yet?" dozens of times. Let's be honest though; you asked this as a kid too - admit it! The worst part of the whole thing is that it's not just annoying; it's dangerous. A great road trip safety tip would be to prepare for this situation. Since being asked whether or not you're there yet when you very clearly aren't for the fifteenth time can act as a distraction. you need to be prepared to stop this problem before it starts. 

This can easily be combated by keeping the little ones occupied. While traditional road trip games like '20 Questions' can be fun for a little bit, they can get old fast, so you're going to want to bring some other form of entertainment. Older kids and teenagers can usually be kept calm if you let them use their phones. If you do this, it is best to have them download any movies, podcasts or other entertainment beforehand to minimize data usage. There are road trip-specific card games that could amuse the younger kids. Better yet, many of these are games that one of the parents could play with the kids as well. However, it is important to stress that the vehicle's driver can not participate in such games for safety purposes.

9. Don't Text While Driving

If you’re young, you probably heard this at driving school so many times it gave you a headache. However, it is worth repeating here, as many road accidents are caused by distracted driving. While you might think you can get in that quick text at a red light, you will want to think again. Texting or calling while driving isn't just dangerous; it's illegal in Ontario. Add to this the fact that it isn't safe to do so, and it's best to avoid taking the risk. Either wait until your next break to respond, pull over, or have someone else make the call or text.

10. Don't Talk Much While Driving

While it's not illegal for you to talk to the people in your car, it can still be distracting. While an experienced driver might be able to contribute to a conversation for a little while, it's best that they keep the vast majority of their attention on the road and everything around it.

11. Take Breaks

No matter how good you are at concentrating, a long drive will eventually weaken your focus. You'll be more aware of the open road around you if you rest briefly every once in a while. It is recommended to take a 15-minute break every 2-3 hours. Not only will this allow you to enjoy some of your time on the road, it will also allow everyone the chance for bathroom and snack breaks, and give everyone a brief opportunity to stretch or otherwise use some of their pent-up energy. It's best you pull over at more traditional rest stops like stores, gas stations, and restaurants if you want to get something quick.

12. Don't Eat When Driving

As tempting as it may be to down a quick granola bar or ice cream sandwich while driving, the sweet, savoury, mouthwatering taste of your chosen treat can be distracting. On top of that, you're also likely using at least one hand to eat, lessening your control on the steering wheel. If you get hungry, it's best to pull over while you have a bite to eat or wait until the next rest point. Also, as evident as it is, this has to be said one of the most important road trip safety tips is under no condition is it okay to drive under the influence of alcohol.

13. Watch For Dangers And Pedestrians

If you think the road trip safety tips basically all say 'keep your eyes on the road', you're right! You must look out for anything that could cause a road accident. Keeping your eyes on the road looking out for other road users and people can help prevent an unfortunate incident.

14. Remember to Have Fun On Your Road Trip

Although it is of course imperative that you follow these road trip safety tips, you should keep in mind that the whole reason you went on a road trip to begin with is to enjoy yourself on a vacation away from home. Remember, it's also important to take the time to sit back, relax and enjoy yourself for a while. 

This content is written by our Morison Insurance team. All information posted is merely for educational and informational purposes. It is not intended as a substitute for professional advice. Should you decide to act upon any information in this article, you do so at your own risk. While the information on this website has been verified to the best of our abilities, we cannot guarantee that there are no mistakes or errors.

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