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xmas night1Many during this time of year are scrambling to get their Christmas shopping done. In the back of their mind, they ask themselves where has another year has gone - up and vanished like so much snow on a hot spring day. Yet, like the spring day, the coming year offers the promise of hope and new aspirations.

With the Christmas season is upon us, drivers need to be prepared for busier freeways, highways and byways. In an attempt to spend time with family and experience the true meaning of the holiday season, most will travel this Christmas. Keep these tips in mind to make your weekend as safe one:

Drinking & Driving

Quite simply...DON'T!

The choice not to drink & drive is made before one starts drinking, not after the imbibing has begun. Make arrangements for a cab, a ride, or to stay over before the party begins.

If you're concerned about other members of your family attending parties and drinking, than consider discussing and signing MADD's contract for life.

Vehicle Preparation

    • Get your vehicle tuned
    • Install winter tires
    • Top up your windshield washer fluid with winter cleaner
    • Equip your vehicle with an emergency survival kit
    • Ensure that all vehicle occupants have warm clothing in the event that the vehicle breaks down, or you become stranded
    • Have snacks, drinks & entertainment at the ready (see below for more details)

Plan Your Route - NAVIGATION

A significant number of motorists travel to new and unknown destinations. Consequently, planning and navigating to their vacation "hotspot" will require forethought, research and documentation. Plan a rest stop every two hours; if you're travelling with children, plan stops where playground equipment, toilets and a place to picnic are available. Google maps, Mapquest and GPS devices all make finding amenities on your travels a simple and easy task.

If you're travelling with a partner and one person will drive and the other provide directions, work out a communication strategy before departing. Go over the route together and discuss which route will be taken. Both people must know where the stops are located and how the directions and maps are organized. As well, the navigator must provide specific information to the driver: "left", "right" and "straight" at intersections will reduce much of the potential confusion that often

If you get lost, as some times happens, take a deep breath. If it's a simple procedure of retracing your steps to a missed turn, find a safe place to turn around. Avoid—at all costs—doing "U" turns on busy highways. If your "lost" is more complex, find a safe place to stop (parking lot, off ramp or secondary road) and study the map to get yourself back on course. If the least bit unsure—and guys, I know this is a tough one—stop and ask for directions!

Plan your departure accordingly

Rush hour is predictable and BC ferries has been providing public service announcements about their busiest times for weeks now. Anticipate how long your route will take and allot extra time for congestion and unforeseen stops. If you've planned your drive accordingly, a 15 – 30 minute buffer zone for each hour of driving should reduce or eliminate much of the tension and stress from your drive.

Avoid a Breakdown

The reality is, that few modern vehicles breakdown, if properly maintained. However, ensure that the oil was recently checked and changed if required, tire pressure is at the level recommended by the vehicle manufacturer and that all fluid levels are topped up.

If you feel that something requires professional attention, take it to your mechanic. And before you depart, conduct a pre-trip inspection consisting of the following:

Lights

      • Parking
      • Signals
      • High & low
      • Dash lights
      • Fog lights if any

Tires, including spare

      • Properly inflated
      • Even wear
      • No lumps, bumps or cracks
      • Know where the jack is located and how it works (check owner's manual)

Fluid levels are adequate

      • Fuel
      • Windshield wiper
      • Engine oil
      • Master cylinder (brake)
      • Hydraulic clutch (manual transmission)
      • Power steering

Check underneath and around the vehicle

      • No fluids leaking
      • Nothing hanging down
      • No new body damage

Inside the vehicle

      • Defroster & heater
      • Air conditioning
      • Windshield wipers (front & back) and fluid
      • Primary controls are responsive and work properly (steering, brakes and accelerator
      • Seats, seat belts and doors work
      • All windows go up & down
      • Fill up the tank before departing

For most drivers, putting fuel in their vehicle is a "pain" at the best of times. It's even worse if you have to jockey for position or wait in a long queue at the fuelling station. Therefore, it is better to top of the fuel in the days before the long weekend. And just before you reach your destination, fuel up in preparation for to side trips and the return home. If you're returning home on Monday after a holiday weekend, line-ups at the fuel pumps are a "given".

Keep kids engaged

Engaged children make for a pleasant and enjoyable trip. Keep them busy with easily accessible games, books, music, snacks and videos. There are a multitude of websites that provide games and activities for children. Simply type "games for kids while driving" into Google or any other search engine. By keeping children active and engaged, the driver can keep her attention on the road ahead.

From all of us here at Smart Drive Test, we wish you all the best for the holiday season and for 2015.

PLEASE SHARE your favourite holiday travelling story!