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Tips For The Open Road

MoneyWise | Jun 22, 2022

Show Notes

Before you hit the road with your family this summer, be sure your prepared! On this MoneyWise, we have some tips for the open road.

  • The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has a great list of things to do before and after heading out this summer.
  • If you want to be prepared for anything along the highways and byways, start with inspecting and maintaining your vehicle. It’s important to perform routine maintenance and follow your car’s maintenance schedule. That’ll keep your warranty in good standing and help you avoid breakdowns. So inspect your car’s fluid levels, wiper blades, tire pressure, lights and air conditioning.
  • Next, you’ll want to check for any recalls on your vehicle. Dealerships do those repairs for free, but a lot of people still drive cars with safety recalls. Things get busy in the summer, … so don’t wait until the last minute to schedule repairs.
  • And if you have kids, their safety is your main concern. Children under 13 should ride in the back seat. Babies from birth to 12-months should sit in a rear-facing seat. From one to three years in, a forward facing seat is appropriate, and a booster seat for kids four to seven years old.
  • It’s also a good habit to check the rear seat every time you leave your vehicle to make sure you haven’t forgotten about a child or pet back there. Sadly, the NHTSA says nearly 40 children die each year due to heatstroke from being forgotten in a car.
  • While we’re on the subject of safety, you’ll want to put together a basic safety kit before hitting the open road where anything can happen. Make sure you bring these items:
  • A cell phone and charger, first aid kit, flashlight, flares, jumper cables, a jack, water and non-perishable food items, washer fluid, and the always useful duct tape, for leaky hoses.
  • Now, it may seem liberating to just head out with a general destination in mind, but since you don’t always know what lies ahead, planning your trip carefully may save you a lot of headaches.
  • Check road conditions, weather, and traffic before you set out. Smart phones have plenty of apps for that, and of course, they come in pretty handy if you have to call for a tow truck.
  • If you’re renting a car, pick it up a few hours early so you can get familiar with it before heading out. Check the manual for safety features. Get acquainted with the dashboard and switches so you don’t have to do that while driving. On some makes, even the location of the trunk and fuel hatch buttons can be a bit of a mystery at first.
  • Okay, that’s your pre-trip checklist. Now that you’re ready to hit the road, try to drive during non-peak hours. Those would be during morning or evening rush hour, Monday through Friday, weekend afternoons and evenings during summer. Instead, leave between rush hours on Friday or early Saturday morning.
  • On the return trip, try to leave after the morning rush on Monday if you can afford the time away. Also, try to avoid night driving. A National Sleep Foundation survey found that over 100 million people have fallen asleep at the wheel at some point.
  • Pull into a rest stop if you feel yourself getting fatigued. Get out and stretch your legs. It’s also good to keep the air conditioning at a cool setting while driving. Warmer temps may make you feel drowsy.
  • If you have older children who are qualified to drive, a road trip can be a good way for them to gain highway experience, so share the driving … as long as you remain attentive in the shotgun seat.
  • You also want to share the road. Keep your eyes peeled not just for other cars and trucks, but also motorcycles, bicycles and pedestrians that tend to be out in droves during the warm summer months.
  • Pay attention to the distance you give other vehicles. There used to be a guideline that you should leave one car length separation for every 10 miles of speed, but in recent years … analysts have realized you have to give more than that at higher speeds when stopping time is critical.
  • So adjust accordingly and never tailgate. Getting there a few seconds faster is never worth putting yourself, your passengers and other vehicles at risk.
  • And it goes without saying that everyone should be buckled up. The American Medical Association says traffic accidents are a leading cause of deaths in the U.S., but wearing a seatbelt can greatly improve your odds of surviving a crash.
  • One final thought: Make sure you’ve factored gasoline prices into your vacation budget. Highway and interstate gas stations tend to have the highest prices.
  • We hope they help you have a safe and enjoyable experience this summer!

On this program, Rob also answers listener questions:

  • Is it wise to use funds from a 401k to pay off your mortgage?
  • How do you determine the wisest thing to do with an annuity?
  • When is it wise to bail out of the stock market?


Remember, you can call in to ask your questions most days at (800) 525-7000 or email them to Questions@MoneyWise.org. Also, visit our website at MoneyWise.org where you can connect with a MoneyWise Coach, join the MoneyWise Community, and even download the free MoneyWise app.

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