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Helpful Tips from AAA Alabama for those planning summer trips

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By Eric Taunton
The Birmingham Times

With the upcoming July 4 holiday right around the corner, Clay Ingram, public relations and marketing director for AAA Alabama, said having fun during the summer is important, but safety, of course, should be paramount.

“If you’re going somewhere for July 4 or any other time of a year, if you’re taking a family trip, you’ll want to get the car checked out ahead of time by a certified technician,” said Ingram. “That can potentially prevent you from breaking down along the way. They can find things that you might not be able to spot such as belts, and hoses that may be loose.”

He also suggests that drivers have someone in their car to help with administrative responsibilities. “This means changing the radio station, handing out snacks, answering the phone, reading the maps, and giving directions so that whoever is driving can keep his or her focus on the road at all times . . . because in congested traffic, you’re going to have a lot more cars than you normally do,” Ingram said.

Drivers will be closer than normal and tailgating has become a huge problem, he added. “So as a driver you’ll have less reaction time and less margin for error because there are so many cars around you.”

Ingram urges drivers to be alert for distracted and drunk drivers and discourages drinking before driving. It might be a good idea to download and use driving service apps such as Lyft or Uber as well as stay in hotels or at a friend’s house before anyone drinks before driving, he said. “If you wait until after you’ve been drinking to make that decision about whether you need to be driving or not, then you’re making that decision as an impaired person and may not make the best decision,” he said.

Ingram also believes it’s important to “pack your patience,” which means to expect traffic delays such as road work and slow-moving traffic and he advises preemptive planning to prevent the urge to rush to a vacation destination.

“There is going to be a lot of traffic out there, it’s going to be congested and moving a lot slower than normal because of the high volume of traffic, so [plan] your travel time schedule earlier than you normally would and that helps you in several ways. It allows you to sit back and go with the flow of traffic and relax” and not be stressed out because you’re running late which can lead to anxiety bad situations.

Meanwhile, the National Association for Convenience Stores, a trade group that represents the convenience store industry, recently released its Summer Drive Study, which provides members with statistics on activities about summer road trips.

The study concluded that 85 percent travel by car, 36 percent by plane, and 8 percent by train and 69 percent say that traveling to their destination is often more enjoyable than their actual vacation destination. And while traveling 78 percent listen to music, podcasts, and audiobooks and 62 percent talk.