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A few simple tips can help ensure safe holiday travels

As scores of Floridians get ready to hit the road for the holidays, one highway patrol officer provides some important tips to help ensure that you and your family get to and from your destination safely, even if the unforeseen happens.

First, pay attention. With a vehicle full of kids and pets, this can be easier said than done. However, distracted driving is a real danger on our roads, and it involves more than talking on the phone and texting. Of course, it's best to keep your phone off and where you can't reach it. Moreover, limit the volume of the music in the vehicle. If those who are not driving want to listen to music or passengers in the back seats want to watch a DVD, providing them with headphones may help keep everyone sane and safe.

Of course, it's essential to look out for sudden moves by drivers and debris or other obstructions in the road. However, it's also important to be aware of your location should something happen and you need to call for help. Note mile markers and reference points as you drive.

Before you leave, you should ensure that your vehicle is in shape for the trip. However, be prepared for an emergency, whether it's an accident or breakdown. Make sure that your vehicle contains jumper cables, a first aid kit, water, blankets, gloves, a flashlight, nonperishable food and batteries. If you already have a hurricane go bag in your vehicle, you likely have many of these items there already. If there's a delay in help getting to you, these supplies can make the wait more comfortable.

If a road emergency occurs, your first step (assuming that you aren't seriously injured) is to maneuver the vehicle to a safe location, out of traffic. The right shoulder is generally recommended. If you or anyone else gets out of the vehicle, be sure to keep as far from the road as possible. Too many road emergencies end up tragically because people were standing in or too close to the road.

Of course, no matter how careful we are, we can't control or predict the behavior of other drivers. If you or a loved one is injured or worse in a car accident, you may be able to hold the at-fault driver civilly liable independent of any criminal charges or traffic violations leveled at the driver.

Source: Fresno Bee, "Tips for safe holiday driving: pay attention, be prepared," Traci Gallian, accessed Dec. 22, 2015

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