Safe summer driving: Are you ready for your trip?

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Nicholas Perez
  • 86th Vehicle Readiness Squadron
It's finally summer in Germany and the open road is calling your name. Before you hit the autobahn for a weekend getaway or take a drive in the beautiful German countryside, here are a few pointers to ensure you have a pleasant and safe summer outing.

First you need to make sure you are prepared physically and mentally. Driving long distances can be very tiring and stressful. Even the most seasoned traveler is not immune to the effects of fatigue. Get plenty of sleep before your trip. While traveling, if you begin to feel weary be on the lookout for rest stops and take frequent breaks.

Rest areas in Germany are well marked and usually have refreshments. It's important that you take a few minutes to stretch your legs, get some coffee or a snack and wake up. Getting adequate rest is important when preparing for a road trip and will help you to be alert for changing conditions on German highways.

There are many factors to be aware of when traveling on German roads. For instance, Germany is well known for its high-speed roadways, so even if your drive is just into the next county or wherever your GPS is taking you, be sure to travel at safe speeds.

Another thing Germany is known for is its unexpected change in weather. Sudden rainstorms can cause the road surfaces to become temporarily slick, which can lead to accidents. Additionally, the glare of the sun and fog can happen anytime and impede your vision. Also, wind gusts, leaves and debris can wreak havoc on your traction and blind curves with narrow shoulders and shaded areas hide all sorts of hazards.

The summer also brings out more tourists, cyclists, tractors and horse-drawn carriages on the roads. In rural areas, traffic congestion can change fast making it necessary to brake quickly. Overall, being an alert driver is the first priority to arriving alive. An alert driver is also a proactive driver; being proactive will help increase reaction times to ever changing road conditions.

Furthermore, proper maintenance on your vehicle is as equally important as getting adequate rest and safely navigating road conditions. A few items to check prior to a long road trip are your fluid levels, headlights, brakes, warning signals, belts, hoses, and tire pressure and condition.

With distance, tires heat up and faster driving speeds increase the risk of a blowout. Be sure your tires have a safe tread depth for the road surface. It is recommended that you have no less than one-eighths of an inch tread depth for driving in wet road conditions and three-sixteenths of an inch tread depth for driving in snow. In addition, tires should be rotated regularly to avoid improper tread wear. Driving within the speed limit is also good for your tires, and can increases gas mileage.

Summer traveling opportunities can take you all over Europe, but you are the biggest factor to arriving safe and in one piece. Your preparation prior to a road trip is the most important thing before getting behind the wheel. Focus on the road ahead and enjoy your summer in Europe.