Summer Driving Safety Tips: How to Have Fun and Stay Safe on These Popular Road Trips

Summer Driving Safety Tips: How to Have Fun and Stay Safe on These Popular Road Trips Hero Image

Now that summer is here, it’s time to start planning for how to make it your most memorable yet. With gas prices expected to be at a 13-year low, it may finally be the perfect time for that road trip you’ve always dreamed of. However, road trips can go awry quickly if you don’t properly prepare for them.

The following is a list of some folks’ favorite road trips in America and how to plan for them to ensure troubles don’t ruin your trip.

BBQ Road Trip Through the South

Southern BBQ is some of the most delicious food America has to offer, and eating your way through the Deep South’s best BBQ joints is a summer trip you and your stomach will never forget. According to Fodor’s, you should start with the “dark” and “light” pork in South Carolina at the famous Sweatman’s BBQ before hopping on I-20 and heading towards Birmingham, Alabama. In Birmingham, stop at Miss Myra’s Pit Bar BQ’s before heading further south into Mississippi for a meal at The Shed, just outside Biloxi.

The trip continues in New Orleans at the rib spot The Joint. However, don’t limit yourself to BBQ while you’re in New Orleans. Be sure to take in the music, history, and other delicious dishes New Orleans has to offer.

If you’re not too full after visiting the Big Easy, continue on to Austin where you can cap your road trip off with what some call the best BBQ in America at Franklin BBQ. You’ll almost be a BBQ expert at this point.

Before You Leave: This trip is more than 1,200 miles. For these long trips, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends you pack an emergency roadside kit. Make sure to include a cellphone charger, first-aid kit, jumper cables, tire-pressure gauge, water, nonperishable food, and a map, among other items. For a full list of what you should include in your emergency roadside kit visit, NHTSA’s website.

While You’re on the Road: Aside from indigestion, you’ll need to be on the lookout for distracted drivers while driving through the South. You’ll pass through some of the most dangerous states for driving in the entire country. Louisiana is the only state with a “good” rating from the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, while the remaining states received a “caution” or “bad” rating. Take your time and drive defensively, so you’ll get to enjoy all of the best BBQ the South has to offer.

California’s Pacific Coast Highway

The Pacific Coast Highway runs nearly the entire state of California, but National Geographic recommends a drive from Monterey to Morro Bay, California.

Starting at the northern end of the highway, visit the art colony in Carmel before taking a hike in the beautiful Point Lobos State Reserve. After, continue south and drive over the impressive Bixby Bridge to reach the highlight of your drive, the Big Sur coastline. The narrow road is flanked by giant redwoods on one side and cliffs that plunge into the Pacific Ocean on the other. Try to pull over at one of the many designated locations and take in one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world.

Continue your trip down the highway with stops at any of the state parks, beaches, and small towns along the way until you reach the town of San Simeon. Here you can visit Hearst Castle, one of the lavish homes that belonged to 20th Century newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst. Finally, end your trip in Morro Bay, home of the 23 million-year-old, 536-feet high Morro Rock; or continue a little farther south and end your trip in Los Angeles — either way you can’t lose.

Before You Leave: Driving the PCH will give you an opportunity to get in touch with nature, because there are few distractions along the road. This includes gas stations, which appear less frequently the further north you go. This is especially true along the Big Sur portion of the road, so be sure to fill up before you go and maybe bring an extra can of gas along just in case.

While You Are On the Road: The PCH is narrow and winding and if you’re driving south you’ll be driving along the edge of a cliff. This is not the time to be worried if your tire tread is up for gripping the road as you navigate the frequent curves. Taking it slow will not only keep you safe, but will allow your tires more opportunity for maximum traction, so you can more effectively traverse the PCH.

U.S. Route 50: The Loneliest Road in America

U.S. Route 50 runs the entire width of the country, but only one portion is dubbed the Loneliest Road in America. Spanning the Great Basin Desert, one of the four major in the United States, the Loneliest Road will take you from the Utah-Nevada border all the way across Nevada, until you reach Lake Tahoe on the Nevada-California border.

The flat, dry, and sparsely populated road was once the route used by the Pony Express to bring mail to the West Coast. Now, you can stop along the way at small towns like Ely, Eureka, and Austin to glimpse what remains of the Pony Express, as well as the Nevada gold rush of the 19th Century. Along the way you will also see history from Native Americans who documented their existence with cave paintings dating back thousands of years.

You can finish your trip off in Dayton, Nevada, an old mining town that is now a great place for canoeing and whitewater rafting, according to The Weather Channel’s travel guide. You are also just 30 miles from Lake Tahoe, excellent for skiing in the winter and hiking and biking in the summer. It’s a fitting reward for a drive across a desolate desert road unlike any other in America.

Before You Leave: Driving across hundreds of miles of desert can get tricky if you don’t prepare properly. Although the Great Basin Desert is more temperate than other American deserts, it is still a desert. This means you’ll want to make sure your car’s air conditioner is working and that the other fluids, such as oil or coolant, are topped off. You may also want to check for recalls on your car before you leave, because some defects, like with Takata’s air bags, are more likely to manifest themselves in warmer climates.

While You’re Driving: Although modern cars are well equipped to handle long drives on a hot day, overheating can still occur. While you’re driving through the Nevada desert, keep an eye on your engine thermostat to be sure your car doesn’t overheat. If you see that it is heating up, turn off the AC and open the windows to give the engine some time to cool off. If the engine refuses to cool down, it may be time to pull over and wait for the engine to cool. Overheating is usually due to a lack of coolant in the radiator, so carrying an extra bottle on a long road trip through the desert might come in handy.

If you take a road trip, it will be something you never forget. That should be because you had a great time and not because your car broke down or you got into an accident. Spending hours on the road increases the likelihood of getting into an accident, and if it happens outside of your home state the rules may be different than you are used to. Morgan & Morgan has dozens of offices in nine states, and should you get into a car accident, you might want to contact our lawyers at Morgan & Morgan. Please visit our car accidents guide for more information.