Money Talks, So Should You

Road trip tips for your kids' (and cars') summer safety

Brian O'Connell
by Brian O'Connell, MainStreet contributor

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — When parents wave bye-bye to their college-aged kids for a summer weekend or when September comes, little do they know they neglected to warn Junior about a big rite of passage among young adults: the road trip.

Road trips reached mega-status in the U.S. culture through the 1978 movie Animal House, in which fraternity house misfits loaded up a Lincoln Continental with beer and hit the open road.

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But for parents these days, it’s safety first. Loading up any vehicle with beer is low on the list of actions mom and dad want their kids to take when away from home.

That’s not going to stop kids from embarking on road trips, so parents would do well to arm them with some tips on how to get the most out of a road trip in a safe, practical way. Fortunately, Royal Purple, a Porter, Texas, synthetic oil products and services firm, is ready with some tips.

“With any road trip, the journey itself is part of the adventure,” says the company’s marketing director, Randy Fisher. “We put this list together because we wanted to make sure that college students get the fullest experience from their time on the road, and most importantly get to school safe.”

Here is what the company advises before backing out of the driveway:

Give yourself some time. Royal Purple says having an extra day of travel will add some relaxation on a road trip. “That allows you to drive rested, get some sightseeing in and arrive early to your destination,” the firm says. And drivers can save time by using a travel planning website such as Furkot.  

Know your travel goal. Road-trippers have to know what lies ahead on that open highway, especially if there are delays, road closings or construction along the way. “Before you leave, make sure your GPS is updated,” the firm says. “Many state DOT systems have online resources to alert drivers.” For example, the state of California maintains a database on the Caltrans website, on which travelers can check out current road conditions on major highways anywhere in the state.

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Have an emergency contact. It’s vital to have a list of contacts on hand to turn to in the event of an emergency. “Put a copy in your wallet and in the glove box for easy access,” Royal Purple says. “Even better, put the numbers in your cellphone before you leave.”

Have your vehicle checked before you go.

Royal Purple says that 77 percent of cars on American roads and highways need some servicing.

Before you leave, check these items off your to-do list:

  • Inspect your tires for signs of abnormal wear, looking for worn tread.
  • Know where your spare tire and jack is in your car.
  • If you don’t know how to change a tire, you can find a video on YouTube or visit your local mechanic for a lesson. If you go the video route, make sure you practice before you hit the road.
  • Check the lubricants and fluids in your car.

Also replace windshield washer fluid and add coolant. Don’t try to remove a radiator cap if your car has been running, Royal Purple says. “Steam builds up during driving and could cause serious burns if removed before allowing the car to cool down,” the report says.

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No doubt road trips are a blast for younger Americans. But don’t leave your common sense behind before you get behind the wheel.

And remember, Animal House was just a movie. In real life there are ramifications for taking big risks on the road. Keep the tips above in mind, reduce those risks — and spend the rest of the time enjoying your trip.

 

Brian O’Connell has 15 years of experience covering business news and trends, particularly in the financial, health care and career management sectors. He has written 14 books and appeared on CNN, Fox News, CNBC, C-Span, Bloomberg, CBS Radio and other media outlets and in such publications as The Wall Street Journal and The Street.com. He is a former Wall Street bond trader.