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April 18, 2024

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Spring Housing Guide

Safety tips for summer road trips

The summer sun is at its brightest, tempting students to take advantage of their lighter class load by going on a vacation. Many will choose to take the infamous road trip to their destination.

While a road trip may seem like the most convenient and cost efficient way to travel, Ray Palermo director of public relations of Response Insurance located in Meriden, Conn., warns that driving can be dangerous. Road trips should be well planned and drivers should be aware of how to handle potential problems that may arise.

“Hot weather brings unique challenges,” Palermo said. “It can present dangerous conditions for both the vehicle and its occupants.”

Preparation

Over 7 million cars break down each summer. By preparing for a road trip, most breakdowns and problems can be avoided. Palermo said a lot of drivers, not just students fail to take necessary precautions before hitting the road.

“We had a full tank of gas and wore our seatbelts,” said Junior Danny Baldyga, who recently took a road trip to Windsor, Canada.

Palermo said drivers should gas up, but also need to make sure the car is full of other fluids such as oil, transmission fluid and windshield washer fluid.

“A lot of people forget windshield washer fluid and with the summer, there are a lot of bugs on the road,” he said.

He also suggests checking the battery level and strength, tire pressure including the spare, cooling system and belts and hoses. He said that checking the belts and hoses is important preventative maintenance for cars that are four years old or older. Old rubber dries out over time and any of them that appear to be brittle need to be replaced.

Drivers should also have a tool box and a well equipped emergency kit in the trunk.

While it is important to prepare the car for a trip, drivers should prepare themselves as well. Palermo said for drivers the most important way to get ready for a trip is to rest.

It is also a good idea to have a navigation plan that has taken into consideration any road construction. Baldyga ran into construction problems when riding with a friend to Detroit.

“I went to Mexico earlier in the month and we flew out of Detroit,” he said. “I knew there was construction and my one friend who was driving refused to believe me. We took that torn-up way and ended up getting lost and sidetracked.”

Stay alert

After being on the road for several hours, fatigue will begin to set in. Palermo said that drivers should take at least ten minute breaks every one and a half to two hours. He suggests bringing along baby wipes and water to stay refreshed.

Drivers may rely on coffee to stay awake. Palermo said that the effects of the caffeine in coffee does not become apparent until 20 minutes after it is drank, so the driver needs to anticipate when they will need it.

He warned that coffee only takes a person so far and it may be necessary to pull over and take a quick nap. Naps should only be taken for 15 to 20 minutes.

“There are studies that indicate if you nap 30 minutes or more you will wake up and actually be more tired,” Palermo said. “You don’t want to start sleeping, like you would if you were going to bed. A nap is much more valuable.”

When there is a solo driver, Palermo said it may be necessary to call it a day and get a full- night rest.

“You would have to think it can’t be as safe [to drive alone] because you don’t have the other person to talk to you and keep you alert.”

Road rage

Driving may lead to stress and irritability, which can result in road rage.

“Driving has changed over the years, it has become competitive,” he said. “Driving used to be a solitary event. You were driving from A to B and there happened to be people around. Now, it seems to be a competitive event.”

While road rage may be unavoidable, there are measures drivers can take to make sure it does not escalate. Palermo said it is important to address what just happened rather than the anger the driver feels.

For instance, if a driver gets cut off, it is important for them to react safely. They should never try to get even by cutting the other driver off.

“You have to have the mind set that ‘I am not competing with this idiot,'” Palermo said. “It is hard not to get caught up in the competitiveness of it. That is something you have to check yourself on.”

Dealing with a driving disaster

Sometimes it is impossible to prevent a driving disaster. Palermo said that with the warm weather, cars are more apt to overheating; so if the car’s engine light comes on, the car should be stopped immediately.

“When you try to drive through it, you can do permanent damage to the engine and you want to pull over as soon as you possibly can,” he said.

Drivers should pull to the right side of the road. They should be careful not to touch the radiator after they open the hood of the car. The radiator cap should not be removed because the pressurized coolant will be extremely hot and will spray out with great force. Palermo also warned not to pour water over the engine or radiator because a drastic change in temperature could cause damage.

After allowing the engine to cool, a 50-50 mix of coolant and water can be added to the reservoir to bring it up to its proper level.

If a car begins to overheat in traffic (making it impossible to pull over,) the best thing to do is to turn off the air conditioning and turn on the heater to its highest and hottest setting, Palermo said.

“The heater works off of the engine’s heat, so when you turn on the heater you take the heat from the engine.”

With the possibility of these problems and the soaring prices of gas, Palermo said that it maybe easier and cheaper to fly. But as Baldyga described, the experience is worth the headache.

“You can talk about anything and it is fun,” he said.

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