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Safety tips to stay accident free on our roadways this Thanksgiving weekend

It's that time of year again!

Thanksgiving is a favorite holiday for many Ohioans, Pennsylvanians, and Americans in general. For most, it is the unofficial kick-off to the holiday season and perhaps the one time of year when we get to see people to whom we are close at heart, but from whom we live far apart. Be that as it may, Thanksgiving weekend travelling is an annual regularity for many families. Some travel hundreds and even thousands of miles to see the people they love, while others may just take a short trip up state. Whether you're planning to pack up for the weekend and take a long drive, or you're just going to be doing a lot of running around for the holidays, we here at Dallas W. Hartman, P.C. would like you to keep safety in mind as the weekend nears. So, have a cup of hot cider and take some time to read the safety tips that we've come up with to make your holiday fun, memorable, AND safe.

Pre-planning your trips

As we all know, the highways tend be quite crowded during the holidays, and Thanksgiving weekend is probably the busiest time of year for major roadway congestion. This year, Triple A has predicted that nearly 45 million Americans will be travelling at least 50 miles or more to celebrate Thanksgiving with friends and family. Unfortunately, this means more motor vehicle accidents, and with the weather this year being forecasted as frightful–with extreme temperature lows and lots of snow–it is extremely important that you are ready to keep you and your family safe on our highways and byways. A recent seven-year study found that the weather, time of day, speeding, and people who are under the influence of alcohol are the four main factors in Thanksgiving weekend accidents. So, keep all of those things in mind as you're getting ready to hit the road and NEVER drink and drive. 

Check your fluids and tire pressure

Before taking any long trip, you should always check the fluid levels in your vehicle. This is especially true during the winter holidays due to the cold weather and possible adverse road conditions. Be sure to check your brake fluid, steering fluid, transmission fluid, coolant, and motor oil. If you're unsure about how to check a particular fluid, then consult your owner's manual. If you're not the "do-it-yourself" type, that's OK, just make an appointment with your local mechanic. Checking and filling fluids shouldn't cost you much and you can probably get out of there spending less than $50. While you're there, you may want to have the mechanic check the general outlook of your engine and replace any corroded wiring or tubes as well. This may cost a little more and you can do it for cheaper yourself, but it is well worth the cost of keeping your family safe.

Another extremely important thing to remember that many forget before long trips is to check your tire pressure. If you don't have a pressure gauge, they can be bought at most gas stations for less than a few dollars. In addition, many gas stations offer free air for your tires or a few minutes of air for a couple of quarters. Almost all compressed tire air machines have gauges attached to them. The correct air pressure for your tires will be expressed in pounds per square inch, or "PSIs," and can be found in your owner's manual or more easily on the side panel of your driver's side door.

It is important to never overfill your tires. This is a fact many people do not know and think that overfilling just a little is better than under-filling. The fact of the matter is that you should be precise in filling your tires. By overfilling your tires, you can essentially reduce the amount of friction between your tires and the road, increasing your risk of hydroplaning in inclement weather and causing an accident.

Always keep emergency items in all of your vehicles and replace what you use regularly

The truth is that we never know what is going to happen when we're out on the road. Whether it's a flat tire, blown transmission, or the rain or snow is just too thick for you to continue, there are some things that you should always keep in your vehicles. A set of jumper cables is an absolute necessity. Most folks have no problem pulling over to give you a jump, but not everyone has jumper cables, so be prepared and get yourself a decent set of cables at your local auto parts store if you don't already have them.

In addition to jumper cables, always have a first aid kit in your vehicle with bandages, tape, scissors, hydrogen peroxide and plenty of bottled water. Throw some extra old blankets in the trunk in case you have to wait in your car for a while, but can't afford to waste the fuel. It's also a great idea to keep a flashlight and some road flares so that you can be well seen by other drivers if you need to fix a flat or change a tire. Of course, having an ice scraper with a brush is also an essential item, but you may also want to grab a small bag of salt or even kitty litter to lay down around your tires in case you get stuck in snow or mud.

Pre-plan your route and know alternative routes

With millions of cars on American roadways this holiday, both urban and rural roads are likely to be busier than any other time of year. By pre-planning your trip and using your GPS only as a guide–not a distracting diversion from the road–you are much more likely to get to your destination safe and sound. In addition, leaving an hour or two earlier, or even late at night when traffic isn't nearly as heavy, can help you avoid traffic. Nighttime driving isn't for everyone, so if you're not up to the task don't risk it. If you are, however, then be sure to have another person in the car who can drive if you get tired. Also, if you enjoy coffee, having an extra cup before you leave isn't a bad idea either.

More important than anything else: DRIVE SAFELY!

Replenishing vehicle fluids, regularly cleaning your windshields, and having your tire pressure checked won't do you much good if you're not a safe driver. Try to be a defensive driver and pay attention to detail. Check your mirrors regularly and obey traffic signs and speed limits. Most importantly: avoid distractions. Stay off your mobile phone and if you must talk then pull over to the side of the road in a safe location first. Never text and drive! Studies have shown that texting-while-driving can add up to six seconds and 80 feet to your reaction time and distance. Try to have another passenger in the vehicle who will stay awake with you and put them in charge of any communicating and GPS-ing that may be necessary.

By taking the time to be safe this Thanksgiving weekend, you'll be doing yourself and your family a great service. From all of us at Dallas W. Hartman, P.C., have a great holiday weekend and enjoy your turkey!

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