Officials urge safe driving during exodus
Randy Varner, auto craft center mechanic, works on a vehicle before exodus to ensure it is properly running for holiday travel.

FORT RUCKER, Ala -- Safety officials urge members of the Fort Rucker community to take the proper precautions before traveling during holiday exodus this weekend.

"Make sure to plan your trips before you leave," said Robert Saliewicz, Aviation Branch Safety Office safety and occupational health specialist. "Mark your route on a map and give a copy of that plan to a Family member, friend or business associate as an extra precaution."

During the winter months, driving can be particularly dangerous so people should make sure their vehicles are in proper working order, said safety officials.

"Make sure to check your car out completely before you get on the road," said Saliewicz. "Many breakdowns are avoidable, especially those involving fuel, oil, cooling or electrical problems."

Drivers are urged by safety officials to check the following on their cars before traveling: battery, antifreeze, windshield wipers and fluid, ignition system, thermostat, lights, flashing lights, exhaust system, heater/defroster, brakes, oil levels and tires.

One of the things people fail to check the most on their vehicles before traveling is the tires, Saliewicz said. "Until people have a blow-out or a flat tire, people usually don't realize they had a problem with their tires."

People should always check to make sure the tires on their vehicles have the proper tread and are properly inflated, said the safety officer.

"Tire tread equals stopping power," said Saliewicz. "The less tread you have, the less stopping power you have."

When driving in winter weather, he also recommends that people should be more aware of inclement weather warnings and the hazards inclement weather presents.

"The roads will be turning icy and in some winter storms, visibility can be greatly impaired," said Saliewicz. "Make sure to have fresh windshield wipers that are properly installed to help with visibility while driving during a winter storm."

Before taking long trips during the holidays, it's important to make sure people are well rested before driving urge safety officials.

"Driver fatigue can be a killer," said Saliewicz. "It's especially dangerous when you're driving alone or at night.

"It's best to avoid long drives at night. The glare of lights from outside and the dashboard can increase the chance of highway hypnosis," said the safety officer.

If driving at night is unavoidable, safety officials recommend adjusting the car's environment to help stay awake by: keeping the temperature cool; turning the radio up and switching stations frequently; not using cruise control and keeping your body involved in the drive. "Break the monotony," said Saliewicz.

"People should also take frequent breaks," he continued. "Stop at well-lit rest areas or service stations, and get out of the car to stretch or have a snack."

If you absolutely cannot keep your eyes open, Saliewicz recommends stopping and getting some sleep.

"Staying at a motel for the night is usually the safest bet," he said, "but if you can't find a motel, pull safely off the road-- preferably at a well-lit, secure rest area, service plaza or truck stop."

It is recommended to keep a phone in the car in case of emergencies, but safety officials discourage people from using them while driving.

According to Saliewicz, people with a phone in the car run a 34 percent higher risk of having a collision due to the fact that they are distracted from their driving.

"If you must dial, pull safely off the road, stop, then dial," he said. Speakerphone units allow you to talk and listen without holding a receiver, anything that pulls your attention away from the road can be dangerous.

"It's best to only use the phone in the car as an emergency aid, or to let people at your destination know in advance if you are going to be late," said the safety officer.

Page last updated Thu December 15th, 2011 at 11:40