The best way to drive safely during the pandemic is not to drive at all. But if you have to travel, several experts offered tips on how to make sure you and your loved ones get there and back safely.
With so many other drivers off the road, the most important safety tip is to resist the temptation to speed.
“There is an apparent increase in speeding in several areas across the U.S. That seems to be due to decreased traffic loads,” said Mike Speck, an instructor for the Ford Driving Skills for Life program.
Speck noted that the faster you go, the more likely it is that you’ll have an accident. And if you do have an accident, higher speeds lead to more serious injuries.
(Minnesota is among the states reporting an increase in speeding. The State Patrol reported this week that compared to last year, three times as many motorists have been ticketed for speeds over 100 mph. Faster speeds reduce reaction time, increase stopping distance and lead to more damage in a crash, Lt. Gordon Shank told the Star Tribune.)
It’s also more dangerous for highway work crews, said Carl DeFebo, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Turnpike.
“Without the heavier traffic and congestion, which slows everyone down through construction zones, there is a propensity to drive faster,” he said.
Don’t be lulled into thinking that because you are alone on the road, you can’t get a speeding ticket. It is business as usual for the police.
Despite the stay-at-home directive, sometimes people have to travel.
“If you have to go out, be smart about it,” advised Pennsylvania state trooper Robert Broadwater.
“Many people can’t stay home because they have to go to work or get essentials, but they need to use common sense. We are not out to hammer anyone; we just want you to stay safe.”
With most people using their cars less, the experts suggest that before venturing far from home, drivers should make sure that their vehicles are in good working order. Check tires, oil and lights so you don’t end up stranded on the side of the road.
“Take whatever steps you need to make sure your vehicle is road trip-ready, especially if it has been sitting idle because you’ve been self-quarantined,” said spokesman James Garrity of East Central AAA.
He also suggested keeping hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes and disposable latex or vinyl gloves in the car. If you stop for gas or to use restrooms, the experts stressed following vigilant hygiene practices. Bringing your own food will limit contact along the way.
“Before hitting the road, do your research,” said Garrity, especially if you are taking a long trip.
Check to see if rest stops are open along your route; this varies from state to state. Contact motels and hotels to ensure they are open. Restaurants and fast food dining rooms are closed in many areas, but drive-through and carryout usually are offered.
And whenever you stop, practice social distancing.