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Stay safer on your summer road trips

New Jersey residents, where will your summer travels be taking you? Whether it's a short drive "down the shore" or a longer jaunt to distant states, there's nothing like a summer road trip to make fun memories with family and friends.

Regardless of your ultimate road trip destination, the following tips can help keep you safer along the way.

Plan ahead

Technology presents many different options for plotting your route. For instance, suppose you are driving up the New England coast with your family. You can program your GPS system to include points of interest along the way and include hotels where you can accrue membership points.

You can also plot a route to avoid the busiest roads during the worst times, e.g., driving through Boston on a Friday evening on your way to the Cape. There's no reason to get involved in that madness when a simple route shift can avert hours of delays.

Join a roadside assistance club

AAA and other clubs can be worth their weight in gold if you have a flat on the Jersey Turnpike during rush hour. You may already even have at least limited coverage, as many credit cards offer this protection to cardholders. Check and see what you have for free before forking over your hard-earned cash.

Allow plenty of extra time

Even if your road trip is of the meandering variety, you still want to have enough extra time to get to your motel on the road early enough that you get a good night's sleep and a fresh morning start.

Remember that summer is prime vacation time and there will likely be delays or detours that can slow you down considerably.

Pack a lunch and stay hydrated

You may discover that you make better time pulling off for a quick picnic lunch at a rest area than you do by getting on and off the interstate for meals and bathroom breaks. Spending a few minutes packing a light lunch, drinks and snacks can be a real timesaver on road trips.

Get plenty of rest

Plan to swap driving duties with your fellow roadtrippers. Failing that, get a full eight hours of sleep the night before and take brief rest breaks while you travel to keep from falling asleep behind the wheel.

Be prepared for emergencies

Your road emergency kit should include:

  • basic first aid supplies
  • pocket knife
  • charged cellphone
  • fire extinguisher
  • jumper cables
  • set of wrenches
  • flashlight

Those traveling with children will likely want to include additional items they might need along the way.

Do preventive auto maintenance

Before ever leaving your driveway, make sure that you top off all of your fluid levels and that your tires (and spare) are properly inflated. Have your mechanic check your belts and points and plugs. Get an oil change and tune-up if needed.

If you wind up injured in an auto accident, make sure to preserve your right to seek financial compensation from the at-fault drivers.

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