Better safe than stranded

By: Kayla Dimick | Southfield Sun | Published July 30, 2014

SOUTHFIELD — As families get ready to embark on end-of-the-summer trips before school starts, they should be thinking safety first.

That’s according to Bruce Hamilton, manager of research and communications of AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

While people pack their vehicles to the brim with swimsuits, coolers, suitcases and bug spray, having fun is probably on the forefront of their minds, but the first step in preparing your car for travel is checking its fluids and tires, he said. Since tires are the only part of your vehicle to make contact with the road, Hamilton said it’s vital to make sure they are properly inflated and working.

“You should check vital fluids, like windshield wiper fluid, make sure you have enough gas, and check your tire pressure,” Hamilton said.

Another thing to consider before hitting the road, Hamilton said, is getting a good night’s rest each night for at least two nights before your journey.

“People underestimate drowsy driving and what it can do,” Hamilton said. “People overestimate their ability to deal with it when they’re taking road trips and covering a lot of ground.”

Hamilton said one way to combat drowsy driving is to plan stops along your route where you can rest and recharge, whether at a rest stop or a hotel.

“Plan your stops, and being aware of your surroundings is always a good idea,” Hamilton said.

If something happens where your car breaks down on a busy freeway or highway, Southfield police urge people to stay with their vehicles at all times.

Deputy Chief Nick Loussia, of the Southfield Police Department, said the first step is to pull your vehicle as far off to the side of the roadway as possible.

“If they have to exit the vehicle, exit through the doors the farthest from the travel portion of the roadway,” Loussia said.

The next step is to pull out a well-stocked safety kit, one that includes a tire pressure gage, blankets, a blinking beacon to warn other drivers, and flares, according to Hamilton.

Then call the state or local police, a tow truck or your insurance company.

“If they need to work on their vehicle such as changing a tire, it’s safer to have a police car or tow truck or emergency vehicle behind them to warn other motorists for visibility,” Loussia said.

Another thing to remember is to never try to cross or walk along a freeway.

“The biggest mistake people make is actually walking into traffic, trying to cross a freeway. It’s obviously very dangerous,” Loussia said.