Rules of the Road

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Joe Winfield
  • 52nd Fighter Wing Safety Office
Each summer, hundreds of us take needed and well-deserved vacations.

Some vacation alone, some with their friends, and many take their families. Long distance road trips can be a fun and exciting way to explore Europe and can be a great way to spend some quality time with your family or to simply reflect on your thoughts if you travel alone.

If a summer vacation is in the near future, equip yourself with some skills and knowledge that will contribute to an overall enjoyable retreat.

Be prepared. Before you begin your trip, make sure your vehicle is in good working condition at least two weeks in advance. This will give you time to make repairs and prepare your vehicle for the trip ahead. Nothing is more frustrating than dealing with mechanical problems when you find yourself in unfamiliar territory and you must postpone your arrival because your car broke down. Pack an emergency kit that includes water, food (in case of long delays or breakdowns), first aid kit, jumper cables, warning triangles, a flashlight, equipment to change a tire, and one or more quarts of oil. Oh, and don't forget the forever-in-fashion reflective belt or vest.

As simple as it may sound, get an adequate amount of rest. Try to get about eight or more hours of sleep before traveling. Being well rested and alert prior to beginning your trip is one of the most important factors in safe driving.

Be willing to stop at least every two hours to get out of your vehicle, walk around, stretch out and move your body until you feel completely awake. If you are feeling tired, take a short nap. Taking breaks relieves you from having to stay intensely focused on driving for an extended period of time.

Keep the temperature cool in your vehicle. Cooler air keeps you alert. Keep your eyes moving and check your mirrors and gauges often.

Avoid eating heavy foods. Fast food in your stomach will give you a bloated and heavy feeling. Heavy and greasy food like double cheeseburgers, French fries, schnitzels, pizza, fried chicken and biscuits will contribute to the desire to take a nap, or what we in Safety call "FILOC" -- Food Induced Loss Of Consciousness. Better to eat light food like salads, soup and fruits during the trip to keep your head clear. Drink juice or sports drinks; however, coffee or hot chocolate are always a safe bet for long distances driving.

Do not overdo it. Safety should always come first. There is no point in endangering yourself or others just because you want to arrive to your destination in record time. Remember, get adequate rest, ensure your equipment is up to the task, eat light prior to and during your commute, and don't rely heavily on caffeine.

Using these tips will help ensure a safe and gratifying summer experience.

Top 10 reasons to buckle up:
10. My car doesn't have an ejection canopy.
9. Lying in a hospital for months is not my idea of a vacation.
8. Steering wheels don't make good pillows.
7. I never aspired to be a hood ornament.
6. A wheelchair is not my idea of a hot set of wheels.
5. I always wanted to fly but not into a tree.
4. Tombstones are not the best way to get the last word.
3. I always hated statistics. The last thing I'd want is to be one.
2. I faint at the sight of blood, especially my own.
1. My family needs me.