Ten Tips for Holiday Driving

Natalie Josef
November 19, 2010

According to AAA, 94 percent of Thanksgiving travelers are choosing the roads over the skies this year. While gasoline prices are still rather high, it’s still cheaper to drive once you factor in those extra baggage fees, taxes, and tacked-on costs that come with air travel. Also, by driving, chances are you will avoid the full body scanner and invasive pat-down you might receive at the airport.

Whatever the reason, those of us who are driving to our turkey dinners should consider the following tips to ensure a safe passage and a timely arrival at our destinations.

1. Check your tire pressure
Make sure your tires are inflated to the manufacturer’s specifications. Check your spare tire as well. Check to make sure you have a lug wrench and jack, just in case you have to change a flat tire. For directions on how to do that, click here >>

2. Rest up
If you are heading out at 4am, don’t stay up until 1am watching an Ice Road Truckers marathon. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, each year, drowsy driving-related accidents are responsible for 1,550 deaths, 71,000 injuries, and $12.5 billion in losses. For more on the effects of driving while drowsy, click here >>

3. Pick a good time to drive
Many people will choose to leave after work on Wednesday, which is not a good idea. After getting up early in the morning and working a full day, your body is ready to rest, not drive for five hours. Plus, it’s always best to drive during the day, when your body and mind are used to being awake and accomplishing tasks. Besides, if you get to your destination at 2am, you will want to sleep late after that, which is basically the same as starting out early in the morning and arriving around 11am. Unless you don’t have a choice, try not to jerk your body and mind out of its normal routine.

4. Check your fluids
If you need an oil change, do it before you leave. Check your brake fluid as well. Also, be sure to have some extra windshield washing fluid—you never know when that might come in handy.

5. Don’t drink and drive
Unfortunately, this still needs to be said. It’s also not a good idea to stay up drinking the night before you leave either. Enjoy your liquid merriments on days you don’t have to travel. Drunk driving and fatal car accidents always increase over the holidays. More people are on the road and more people are celebrating—don’t become a statistic.

6. Check in with yourself
For me, the instant I get behind a wheel, my stress level goes up. Add in traffic, lack of sleep, and drivers who are just plain rude, and my patience drops considerably. If I am hungry on top of that, forget it. I know that for myself, I need to feed myself, take breaks, and share driving duties if I want to make it through the trip without completely losing it. Know what your triggers are and if you are becoming too angry or irritable, take a break. I would rather arrive at my destination thirty minutes later and in a good mood than thirty minutes earlier, ready to tear someone’s head off.

7. Know your route and pay attention
The other day, I had to drive somewhere new and put the directions in my iPhone. What a big mistake. It was really hard to read the directions and I almost ran into somebody while checking which exit I was supposed to take. It’s always a good idea to write the directions down on paper or program your destination into your GPS unit before heading out. Keep your eyes open for construction, irregularities in the road, and erratic drivers. If you can, avoid using cruise control.

8. Go the speed limit

Enough said.

9. Don’t use your cell phone while driving
Aside from the example I gave above, I never use my phone in the car. There are no two ways about it—it’s dangerous and should always be avoided. If you need to use your phone, pull over or have someone else in the car make/take that call for you. And please don’t text—it’s even more dangerous than drunk driving. For more information on the dangers of texting while driving, click here >>

10. Entertain thyself
It doesn’t matter if I am driving twenty minutes or twenty hours—my iPod is always charged and ready to go with my favorite playlists (I even have a playlist for road trips). Long road trips can be fun, but they can be boring too, especially if you have kids. Make sure the kids have books, mad libs, games, and any other form of entertainment you can think of. For us adults, books on tape and good music can go a long way.

Above all, be safe this holiday season. Happy travels!


Natalie Josef

About the Author

Natalie Josef is an automotive expert at RepairPal, the leading online source of auto repair resources and estimates. With many ASE Master certified mechanics on staff who have decades of experience, RepairPal knows all the fine points of car repair.

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