Check out your vehicle before going forth for the holidays

TRAFFIC TALK

November 13, 2005|By JODY K. VILSCHICK

You're ready to eat some turkey -- but is your car ready to get you to where it is being served? Getting stuck with car trouble on a congested road is a holiday present you don't want. But in the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year's, 5 million drivers are likely to have their vehicles break down because they were not properly maintained.

Before you hit the road, this is the week to make sure these aren't problems that will make you late for Thanksgiving dinner:

Improper tire pressure.

Low or dirty motor oil, antifreeze or other automotive fluids.

Tires that need to be replaced.

Battery problems, including a low charge or loose or corroded connections.

Faulty headlights.

Damaged vehicle hoses.

And when your vehicle is ready to take you over the river and through the woods, here are some tips to help ensure you make it to dinner safely:

Get plenty of rest before your trip. The heavier holiday traffic and changing weather require alert drivers. Try to drive during daylight hours.

Plan your route ahead of time, and let your hosts know when you expect to arrive.

Don't leave at the last minute. Expect unexpected delays. If delays don't happen, it's better to arrive early (even at your in-laws) than to arrive after the turkey's been eaten.

Make sure that you're prepared for any situation by bringing along emergency supplies such as jumper cables, flares, flashlight and basic tools (screwdriver, pliers and wrenches).

It is getting cold. You should carry a blanket and outdoor wear for all passengers as a precaution.

Minimize driving distractions. Put pets in travel kennels. Give your children games to play (car bingo is a favorite in my family), books to read or turn on that in-vehicle digital video disc player.

Make sure your cell phone is charged in case you need to call for help.

Pull off the road if you must use your cell phone or ask another adult passenger to make the call for you.

Be patient. Don't let aggressive driving ruin this time of celebration.

If you think the Wednesday before and the Sunday after Thanksgiving are the busiest travel days, think again. The roads are most crowded Thanksgiving Day.

Preventing car theft

As the weather gets colder, the Howard County Police Department warns drivers not to leave their cars unattended with the keys in the ignition and running. An unattended car that is running is a vehicle theft waiting to happen.

Many vehicle thefts are considered "crimes of opportunity," where the vehicle would not have been stolen if it had not been easy to do so.

While it seems like common sense, it bears repeating: Vehicles that are left unlocked, with the ignition running or with keys inside the vehicle, are at a high risk of being stolen.

Of the 408 motor vehicles stolen in Howard County this year, 12 percent were left running or had the keys in the vehicle when they were taken.

If the threat of having your car stolen is not enough motive, then here's this: Leaving a car unattended and running is a traffic violation subject to one point and a $60 fine.

Courtesy catches on

When I first heard of the courteous-driving campaign being conducted by Courtesy on the Road Inc. last summer, I wondered whether it would catch on. It appears that it has.

Traffic Talk congratulates these Howard County high school students for having been "caught" driving courteously in the past three weeks by Courtesy on the Road: Kelsey Torano, Glenelg; Amy Hold, Reservoir; and Max Seo, Mount Hebron.

Traffic Talk also congratulates the student drivers of Glenelg, who continue to hold the lead as the school with the most participants in Courtesy on the Road's safe-driving initiative. And Traffic Talk applauds the student drivers of Mount Hebron, who have moved up to second place, according to Lisa Morrow, president of Courtesy on the Road.

What is your driving dilemma? Contact Jody K. Vilschick at TrafficTalk@comcast.net, send faxes to 410-715-2816 or mail letters to Traffic Talk, The Sun in Howard County, 30 Corporate Center, 10440 Little Patuxent Parkway, Suite 820, Columbia 21044. Include your full name and contact information or your comments will not be published or receive a response.

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