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December 23, 2007

A Secret Holiday Driving Stress Reliever

Photosnicholas_t1405564540sunset_dr No matter how well you plan, it happens every year...you end up rushing around like a maniac doing last-minute shopping, gift wrapping, making your special yummy recipe, packing up the family car and driving in really lousy weather to visit friends and family.

You would have to be Wonder Woman not to get stressed out. You are cramming this extra "stuff" in your normal everyday rushing around, so it is no wonder the holidays leave so many people frazzled.

Remember that when you hit the roads to go on your holiday "vacation" you are sharing the highways and byways with a lot of other tense and weary drivers.

I'd like to give you my secret holiday driving stress reliever. Well, it's not actually a secret, but I'm hoping that it gives you some food for thought and keeps you a little bit saner and a lot safer during your holiday travels.

Nicholas_t1819081267roadtrip2 Let your holiday begin as soon as you sit in the car and shut the door. Take a deep breath and let yourself relax before you turn on the engine. If the driver has any anxiety and apprehension concerning the trip then expect the passengers to pick up on the tension and add to it. Don't start the trip by saying things like: "I hate the holidays, I hate going to your mothers, I'm too tired to deal with any of this, you kids better shut up and go to sleep because I am too stressed out to deal with you, etc."   

Try this instead: "Starting right now, we are officially on vacation. I have lots of yummy snacks for the trip, great music (and / or books on tape, DVDs , games to play, etc) to make this a fun trip. We will be stopping every couple of hours to stretch and air everyone out! Let the fun begin!"

Nicholas_t1819081267roadtrip3 When packing your vehicle, make sure everything is securely stowed.  Make sure you also bring along the correct roadmaps, a spare key in your wallet, and a cell phone with the phone numbers pre-programmed to anyone you might need to contact if you are running late. It's always a good idea to also pack: a car jack and tools, snow scraper and brush, extra blanket, flashlight, candles, matches, jumper cables, small shovel, some kitty litter, and flares or emergency triangles.

Whenever you stop, make sure you lock the vehicle. Always store your luggage and packages out of sight. It's sad to say but there are would-be thieves who take advantage of holiday-packed cars.

Do yourself a big favor and make sure your car is road worthy by taking it to the shop for a safety check in the week before your trip. My top priorities are: tires, brakes, lights, windshield wipers, cooling system, and the reliability of the car to start every time you turn it on.

Try to scope out the weather before you head out. Visit www.fhwa.dot.gov/trafficinfo/ for links to information on weather and road conditions. Leave yourself some extra time on your holiday travel schedule. The roads will be heavily traveled, and congestion and winter storms can sometimes hit without warning.

If you encounter bad weather, please slow down. You need at a lot more space between you and the vehicle in front to stop, and remember that bridges and overpasses freeze first in cold conditions. There will also be more commercial vehicles on the road. Remember that they are a lot heavier then your little car and need much more time and distance to stop.

Nicholas_t1819081267roadtrip4 If you start out on your trip tired, you are going to get heavy-eyed as the miles go by. Try and get a good night's sleep before your trip. If you are driving a long distance, it helps to have a passenger who likes to talk.

Here are some early warning signs of exhaustion and pending danger:
*    Repeated yawning
*    Difficulty focusing
*    Your rear end if going numb and you feel incredibly restless
*    Not remembering the last few miles driven
*    Missing traffic signs and turns
*    Hitting the rumble strips on the highway

What to do if you're exhausted:
*    Find somewhere to pull over ASAP. A restaurant, gas station, or rest area is best.
*    Drink some coffee but understand it takes about 30 minutes for the caffeine to kick in.
*    Go for a walk or do some exercises to get rid of grogginess.
*    Find a safe place and take a brief nap for at least 30 minutes.

Always appoint a designated driver when attending seasonal gatherings. When you are really tired, just one drink can have the same effect as three or more. Also remember that overeating can make you tired, and that turkey contains L-tryptophan which is like a natural sedative.

Having a good attitude, getting your car road worthy, and staying awake will make your holiday travels more enjoyable and much safer. And don't forget before you head back home to check the tire pressure, oil, coolant, and make sure the windshield, mirrors, headlights and tail lights are clean!

Amy_mattinat_2 Happy Motoring,

Amy Mattinat
AskPatty Expert Woman

These beautiful road trip photos are courtesy of nicolas_t via flickr

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