Quick trip: Summer safety on the road

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Traffic seen from the I-90 overpass on E. Yellowstone Trail, east of Coeur d’Alene. (Photo by Andreas Braunlich.)

While out on an epic summer road trip, there are a few things to keep in mind, especially if you want the adventure to be less dramatic than a Griswold family vacation.

Plenty of news outlets offer features on safe winter driving, but warm weather isn’t an excuse to ignore basic safety protocols.

Top those fluids

• The mechanically-inclined can check their own oil and fluid levels, but for the average driver, a proper oil change from a professional is a good call ahead of any long-distance trip. Engine coolant and window washing fluid are important must-checks, but if you’re visiting a mechanic or lube center anyway, you might as well have them check everything.

• Tires and the Works

Remember a few months ago when you got your winter tires off and the tire store guy told you the tread on your all-seasons were near death? Of course you ignored him then, but the wear and tear of a long trip might be the thing to kill those suckers for good. Have them checked, or better yet, if you’re the type to put off all kinds of car repairs, maybe dig around through the junk drawer for that “free full inspection” coupon and check the whole car out - brakes, hoses, any outstanding recalls, the works.

• Watch out for drunks

A far-off destination might mean you’re driving several hours of the day, sometimes late at night and/or early mornings. Well, other people are doing that too, and despite it being an incredibly stupid and selfish thing to do, many travelers think they’re “fine” to drive after that epic Dave Matthews concert. They’re not.

•Early morning drunks can be out driving thinking they “slept it off.” Regardless, take extra care at intersections and report any erratic driving behavior to the police.

• Stay off the phone

Most states have enacted No Texting While Driving laws, while Washington state went the extra distance and outlawed any use of your phone outside of a headset/Bluetooth setup. Regardless, many drivers still don’t take these laws seriously, to the point where you’ll see some dudes watching YouTube videos while truckin’ down the freeway.

Don’t be one of those people. Study after study shows how distracted you get trying to operate a phone and vehicle at the same time. It’s infuriating to see the person ahead of you at an intersection with their head down texting when the light turns green. But there are much worse things that can happen when drivers don’t focus on the road in front of them.

• Invest in a big cooler

I love an occasional Sausage McMuffin as much as the next unhealthy guy, but extended road trips present too many opportunities to eat fried, greasy food. Stocking a cooler with healthier snacks, especially pre-prepped fruits and veggies will prevent impulsive stops. It also keeps kids from nagging about being hungry every five minutes. They’ll still nag, probably, but at least you can attempt to silence them with something other than a Happy Meal.

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