Summer is the perfect time to gather up your family and embark on an old-fashioned road trip.
With falling gas prices and the gorgeous summer sun, more families are planning to buckle up and hit the road. And while getting there is half the fun, making it to your destination safely should always be the first priority.
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Below are five summer road trip tips from AARP Driver Safety , which will ensure an enjoyable and safe journey for road trippers of all ages.
- Plan ahead. When mapping a drive to a new destination, make sure you have a thorough understanding of the route. Be aware of any potential obstacles, such as heavy traffic or construction areas, and plan your trip so that you can avoid these dangerous and stress-inducing areas if possible (you might also want to be aware of fun roadside attractions!) Remember to pack any essential road trip supplies, such as snacks, water and an audio book, and if you are traveling with children, pack games and activities to keep them entertained. Save any behaviors that may be distracting  while on the road, such as making a phone call, reading a map or programming a GPS navigation unit, for when you are pulled over in a safe area.
- Give yourself plenty of time. Research shows  that drivers who have been behind the wheel for more than eight hours have nearly twice the risk of crashing, compared with drivers who have been on the road less than two hours. Plan your trip so that you do not need to drive for more than eight hours per day. To stave off drowsy driving, make plenty of stops—at least one every two hours—to stretch your legs, use the restroom  and get some fresh air. If you have a copilot, alternate drivers every few hours. And don’t skimp on sleep each night: People who slept less than five hours before driving increased their risk of crashing four- or fivefold compared to people who slept the recommended eight hours. This way, you’ll be plenty rested for the drive and the fun trip ahead!
- Be prepared. A vehicle breakdown can quickly turn a road trip from fun to nerve-racking and stressful. Take precautionary measures a few days in advance to reduce your chances of experiencing a car hiccup on the road. Make sure to check the air pressure in all four tires, check your tire tread wear, and make sure your vehicle’s fluids are at proper levels. Also, pack an emergency roadside kit that contains, at a minimum, signaling devices, a pocket knife, a first aid kit, water, and nonperishable food items. It may also be worthwhile to invest in a roadside assistance service.
- Sharpen your driving skills. The most important safety feature—and the key to ensuring that you reach your destination safely—is a safe driver. Refresh your defensive driving skills and knowledge of the rules of the road through a safe driving course, such as AARP Driver Safety’s classroom or online courses , available in both English and Spanish. These classes are an excellent way to hone your skills and keep you and your family safe. In some states, you may even be eligible for an insurance discount upon completion of the AARP Driver Safety course.
- Enjoy the ride! Many fantastic memories are born through road trips, so make sure that you’re taking advantage of the best views, tourist attractions and roadside diners along the way. There are a variety of tools available, such as the “Roadside America” smartphone app, designed to describe all of the road trip must-sees along any given route.
Where was your best road trip? What are your best summer road trip tips? Let us know!
For more tips and information, be sure to follow AARP Driver Safety on Facebook  and Twitter !
Photo thanks to Tim Lucas  from Flickr Creative Commons.
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