Summer travel in 2021 is expected to bounce back from the historic lows during the COVID-19 pandemic, with many people making up for lost time to visit loved ones or take a long-awaited vacation.
According to research from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), around 20% of all traffic accidents are the result of poor or neglected vehicle maintenance. If you’re one of the thousands of people planning to hit the road this summer, make sure that your vehicle is road-ready – especially if you weren’t driving it as often during the pandemic.
Here are some basic vehicle maintenance tasks you can do prior to your road trip to make sure that your vehicle is safe to drive:
- Check your car’s battery, belts and hoses. You want to make sure your car’s battery connection is tight and free of corrosion. Make sure the belts are tight and that you’re not seeing any fluids leaking beneath the car.
- Replenish fluids and replace filters. Check your car’s engine oil, power steering fluid, transmission fluid, and windshield wiper fluid, and top off any that are running low. If your car needs an oil change, most oil change stations will also change the engine air filter and top off other fluids if you ask.
- Inspect lights and electrical equipment. Make sure that your car’s brake lights, turn signal lights and headlights are all working properly, and replace any bulbs that are out. Don’t forget to check the windshield wipers and replace them if necessary.
- Check the brakes. If your brakes are squealing or making any sort of sound, the brake pads may be worn down and need replacing.
- Inspect the tires. If your tires are worn, they may need replacing. Check the tire pressure as well, ideally when it’s cold out to get the best reading of any low pressure issues. Tires that aren’t in top shape can affect not only fuel economy, but also safety.
- Got a chip or crack in your windshield? Make sure you get that repaired before you leave. Small windshield damage can quickly become big windshield damage if it’s not repaired quickly, impairing your vision or making a potential collision more dangerous.
Steps to Take After an Accident
No one wants to get in a car accident while on a road trip, but if one does happen, remember the protocol to follow after an accident:
- Check for injuries
Check on anyone in your own car – including yourself – then check on the other vehicle(s) involved to see if the driver and passengers have any injuries.
- Get to safety
Pull over to the side of the road if possible, or at least make sure you and anyone else involved are safely away from traffic if the cars cannot be moved.
- Call 911 and wait for help
In some states, it’s required to call the police even for a fender bender, so it’s better to be safe than sorry. Notify the police and wait for them to arrive.
- Document the accident
Take plenty of pictures from the scene of the accident if it’s safe to do so, to document any damage. Request a copy of the accident report from first responders or police.
- Exchange information
You’ll need to exchange information with the other driver(s) involved, including: full names, contact information, insurance company and policy number, driver’s license and license plate number, type/color/model of vehicle, and the location of the accident.
- Notify your insurance
You’ll need to notify your insurance carrier of the accident. You may want to do this while you’re still at the scene of the accident, in case your insurance provider has a mobile tool available to submit information digitally, should you choose to file a claim.
- Find a collision repair shop near you
If your vehicle is damaged, you may need to find an auto body or auto glass repair shop near you.