As Snowbirds begin to make their way across country seeking warmer climates, the risk of accidents is heightened. What starts as an adventure can end in disaster. Here are some tips to help you stay safe on your way to Florida this year.
Safety begins at home. Before you leave, there are steps you can take to maximize your safety.
- Stop or forward items
Before you fly south for the winter, consider home safety. When people see mail or newspapers uncollected they will know your house is empty. Magazine subscriptions are another item that is often overlooked. While magazines cannot always be forwarded, they can usually be put on hold while you are away. Monthly clubs such as cheese of the month or a tea or coffee club should also be taken into account. Stop the mail and any subscriptions or have them rerouted to your final destination. Be sure to schedule shipments to begin after you arrive in your winter home.
- Vehicle inspection
A full check-up of your vehicle is an important step in traveling safety. Beyond checking tires, lights and signals, make sure all of your vehicle’s systems are in good working order. Go the extra mile and check the full electrical system. Ensure your brakes are in good shape. Now is a great time to address any small issues your engine may have. Make sure your transmission is running smoothly as well. If you’re driving an RV or motorhome it’s a good idea to have it professionally inspected at a local dealership before heading out.
- Bring safety tools
Don’t neglect packing tire chains (if appropriate), emergency lights and extra blankets. Even though you may be headed to a warm climate, pack at least one set of winter wear with gloves, hats and scarves for each person. You never know when you may be stuck in the cold for a while. Emergency warmers are also nice to have on hand and are readily available at most stores. Make sure to include any extra prescription or over the counter medications you use. A copy of important documents can be added to this list.
- Pack extra food
I expect the ladies are smiling here and the gents are rolling their eyes but this can be an important step in safety. Fresh food spoils easily so don’t overstock what you normally eat. A better idea is to purchase camping or survival packets. Whole meals can be found as well as individual fruits, vegetables and side dishes. Desserts are a nice addition to the supply. These don’t have to be purchased in bulk; you can buy them in individual serving sizes. Protein or energy bars are a simple shot of nutrition that doesn’t take up a lot of space. For drinks you’ll want to go with canned or bottled drinks with a long shelf life. Don’t forget to lay in a supply of fresh drinking water as well. If you’re bringing pets don’t forget extra food and water for them also. Remember, these are just for emergency use so keep them packed until needed.
- Create an emergency kit
Get a bin or medium sized storage container. Put inside it all of the emergency supplies you’re bringing from steps three and four. If you’ve chosen to bring candles, make sure you don’t forget the matches. A box of kitchen matches is best because they strike easily on most surfaces. There are also waterproof matches in the camping section of many stores; these will work in most conditions. You may want to add items such as an auto emergency kit with a flare or a small tool set. Keep this packed container in a place where it can be easily accessed when needed.
As you travel
Now that you’re on your way, life is good. You want to keep it that way so try following these simple tricks.
1. Secure your belongings
You are in your home between homes. It can be easy to forget to close windows and lock doors when you stop somewhere. After all, you won’t be gone long. Who would target nice people like yourselves? Unfortunately, criminals are not nice people like you. They are hoping you will leave the door of opportunity open to them. Five minutes is plenty of time to lose a lot of your valuable items. Make sure to fully prevent others from coming in while you’re out. Never leave valuables in plain sight. Even loose change can be a temptation to someone desperate. Don’t leave electronics or music in the open. The emptier your vehicle looks the less enticing it will appear.
2. Avoid cash
While cash may seem a quicker or more convenient way to pay, it’s not the safest thing to carry. You don’t want to have a lot in your vehicle. Stopping at banks frequently is also not very feasible. Traveler’s cheques are not much safer than cash. While they can be traced after being taken, they are easily stolen and converted to cash. You’ll still be without necessary funds while the police investigate such a theft. The smartest travel tip for financial safety is to use a credit card or a bank card. With most people using them today you won’t stand out as a target to thieves.
3. Keep in touch
One area of safety that gets neglected is to keep loved ones aware of your location. Choose a family member or close friend to check in with. You may wish to call every evening with an update on your progress. Provide a specific location such as Joe’s Truck Stop just east of Madison. You’ll also want to let them know your planned direction of travel the next morning. This will give others a good starting point should they ever need to find you. The more people you notify, the better. If you use social media accounts, you may want to post updates on your day’s journey online as well. Make sure to leave a message if you can’t reach anyone. Whatever time or method you choose, include the check-in as a part of your daily routine.
4. Pet safety
For many people, pets are not just an extension of the family; they are family. If you are bringing your pets with you, you want them to arrive safely. Pulling off the side of the road to walk them can be dangerous. During highway travel, look for rest areas that have designated pet runs. These are increasingly common. This will be a fenced area for your pets to be refreshed in safely. No leash is required in most cases. These rest stops also provide a special watering area for your pets. When you need to stop in cities or towns find a local park. Read all posted signs. Where possible, check city ordinances to make sure your pet is welcome there. An easy way to do this is to find the local Chamber of Commerce or tourist office. Wherever you walk your four footed family member, always be a good citizen and clean up after them.
5. Park within sight
When you have an RV or larger vehicle, you may find yourself needing to park on the outskirts of a lot. Whenever possible, however, try to park where you can keep an eye out from inside the business you’re visiting. It’s alright to ask for a seat or location that will give you a better view. While there may be few people who would steal an oversized vehicle, there are many who might mark it as a quick and easy robbery. Your caution might just deter a crime.
Safe driving is important to all. Applying these next ideas can help you make a soft landing in Florida this year.
1. Follow traffic signs
This may seem obvious but it is essential for travel safety. What is legal in one place may get you a ticket in the next. Border areas can be especially tricky so be alert when crossing county and state lines. Following the rules of the road is not just the responsibility of other drivers. Everyone shares a part in the task of keeping each other safe on the highways and byways. It has been said that you should never drive like you own the road; instead, drive like you own the car. That advice is twice as good for an RV or motorhome.
2. Don’t navigate while driving
Some people plan every detail of their trip before they leave their summer homes. Others prefer to fly free and meander on their journey to Florida. Either way, it’s best not to be navigating while driving. Discussing which turn to take ten feet before it comes is not the best idea. A better way may be to plan each day’s direction before getting on the road. That extra time spent can be well worth it down the road.
3. Be weather conscious
As you travel, you may need to adapt to changing conditions. Simple precautions can make a world of difference. Keep a pair of sunglasses on hand for brighter days. They will also be helpful if you have to drive into the setting sun. In bad weather, be prepared for delays and possible detours. Reduce the recommended speed in poor conditions. A good rule for driving in rain is to drop your speed by 5 miles an hour. Snow requires even more cautious handling.
4. Don’t drive while tired
This cannot be said too many times. If you feel like you need a break, take one. Switch drivers whenever possible if you are concerned about time. In any case, feel free to pull over as often as you need. Truck stops abound and are one of the safest places to stop while traveling. Truckers are generally very welcoming and happy to see you resting rather than driving. Your safety impacts not only their safety but their job as well. If you can’t find a truck stop near enough, keep an eye on the road ahead and pull off as soon as you can. Whether you only need a short break or a full nap, obey your body and refresh yourself before getting behind that wheel again.
5. Relax and enjoy the ride
Don’t hurry. It’s easy to get involved in the rushed feel of traffic when driving. To automatically shift into racing gear and compete for the fastest lane. What’s your hurry? Slow down and feel sorry for the poor folks still hurrying to and from work, soccer practice or recitals. You worked hard for your retirement; take it easy and indulge in the scenery. Follow both the speed limits and reasonable caution for the size of your vehicle. Most of all, have fun!
Despite your best efforts, an accident may still happen. What should you do then? The first thing to remember is that you don’t have to be in it alone. Don’t be afraid to call an attorney right away. You need someone who will be on your side. Attorneys can help you step by step through the entire process – from blame to claim. They will help you navigate all the paperwork and cut through any red tape. Make sure you choose a law firm that has the experience you need. Look for one with a professional staff of attorneys dedicated to auto accidents. Neufeld Law Firm has the attorneys on hand that can help you in your time of need. Contact them today!
As you Snowbirds head out this winter, keep in mind these tips for safe travel.