I’m a big fan of road trips – the scenery is (usually) interesting, I don’t have to sit in a cramped space surrounded by strangers for long period of times, and I have control over the music selection (again, usually). Recently, I went on a trip to visit family who reside about 6 hours away. It got me thinking about travel safety and the preparations one should make before hitting the road.
Whenever you hit the road, make sure to pack some emergency supplies. A basic bag should include water (one gallon person per day is recommended), high-calorie survival food bars, blanket, waterproof tarp, first aid kit, a couple doses of any medication you take, waterproof matches or a firestarter kit, a change of clothes, and a flashlight with extra batteries. The basic standard is to carry enough supplies for 3 days. Once you’ve got the basics covered, add additional items depending on the weather and terrain you’ll travel through. You can get as sophisticated as you want.
It’s also a good idea to check over your emergency roadside car kit and make sure it is stocked with the essentials – jumper cables, a spare tire and jack, safety flares, triangle reflectors, bungee cords, a can of tire sealant, tire pressure gage, a quart of oil, gallon of coolant and a basic set of tools. A safety kit for your car is an absolute must have, for long trips as well as daily driving. If you don’t already have one, get one ASAP. For around $50, you can buy a kit that contains all the essentials.
The prevalence of GPS has made it much easier to jump in your car and go. GPS is fantastic, but it’s not without problems. What if the battery in your phone or GPS unit dies? What if you enter an area with patchy service? What if you accidently drop your phone and it breaks or gets wet? Even without glitches in GPS service, you can still encounter an unexpected detour or traffic problems. Before embarking on a trip, it’s a good idea to scope out the route and have at least a general idea of where you’re going. Print out directions from a reliable website like MapQuest or Google Maps. Or, go old school and invest in a road atlas to keep in your car.
Scoping out your route ahead of time will also allow you to plan gas and rest stops. Avoid the panic that comes with needing to get gas but realizing you’re not sure if the next exit will have an open station. Preplanning gas and rest stops gives you control over the establishments you visit. Do you want to stop at a random convenience store in a potentially sketchy part of a town you don’t know or a seemingly deserted rest stop late at night? I don’t. Traveling away from home throws you into the unknown and necessitates you ramp up your situational awareness. Be smart. If you can avoid potential dangers, do it.
It’s also a good idea to let someone know about your travel plans. Periodically checking in with a friend or family member is a great way to make sure someone has a general idea of where you are in case an emergency happens. If something unfortunate happens, it will be easier for law enforcement and/or your family to reach you if they know where you are. Knowing you were about 20 miles outside of Savannah at 3:00 pm creates a much smaller search area than only knowing what time you left home and your intended destination.
If you CCW, there are special considerations needed for travel. Even though you’re properly permitted at home, once you cross into another state, the laws change. There is no state that issues a concealed carry permit that extends across the entire United States. Before you travel, review the laws for the states you’ll be passing through. USA Carry offers a great map that explains the complex web of reciprocity laws. If you’re passing through a state that does not honor your concealed carry permit, be sure to secure your firearm in accordance with the laws of that state. For a more comprehensive overview of reciprocity laws and travel considerations, check out this article on the subject.
While driving, be aware of your mental and physical state. Never drive tired! Falling asleep at the wheel is a factor in 72,000 traffic accidents. If you find yourself struggling to keep your eyes open – pull over! Find a safe spot to nap in your car, or, if you want to utilize preplanning to its fullest, pinpoint a couple hotels you could stop at should you need to sleep.
As a final safety note – be proactive minimize distractions before you start driving! Before you put the car in drive, have your GPS destination entered and music ready to go. If your cell and car are Bluetooth compatible, use it, or invest in a hands-free headset. Put down the cell phone! Distracted driving is to blame in over 400,000 accidents a year resulting in injury and death.
With a little preparation and an alert mind, a road trip is a fun way to travel and see the country. Now que up that playlist and have a great, safe trip!