Memorial Day marks the start of the summer driving season. For most people, summer trips mean freedom and fun. In fact, more people plan to drive this year than last, according to AAA. We're all ready to escape from the everyday and leave worries about the economy behind as we enjoy lower gas prices and warmer weather.
However, according to a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) report, Memorial Day weekend is the year's deadliest three-day holiday period. In addition, the number of uninsured motorists continues to rise, and people are choosing to keep older cars instead of buying new ones. You're more likely to be hit by someone driving an old car that has no insurance.
Does all of this mean you should scrap your travel plans and stay at home? No! It just means you need to be a little more prepared than usual. What will help you avoid problems on your Memorial Day trip?
1. Buckle (everyone) up.
It's a dangerous time to travel because there are more people out on the road, and over Memorial Day weekend, many of them are driving drunk. That's part of the reason police kick off the Click It or Ticket seatbelt campaign around this time. So, party responsibly and wear your seatbelt. And don't start the car until the kids are buckled into a car seat or booster as well – even for short trips.
2. Check your auto insurance.
This is even more boring than the safety tip, but we're an insurance website! With so many uninsured drivers, now's a good time to make sure you have UM/UIM coverage on your policy. Also, although your insurance generally extends coverage to Canada, the same is not true for Mexico, so you'll need to purchase Mexican insurance from a reputable company near the border.
3. Understand rental car insurance.
If you're renting a car, you'll be asked whether you want their "insurance," and you could be wasting money if you say yes. First, find out if you're already covered. Many companies extend your policy's coverage to include rental cars, and your credit card company may cover damage to the car itself. Find out more in our article, "Should You Buy Rental Car Insurance."
4. Don't be distracted.
A recent study found that driver distraction matters more than anyone guessed, with almost 80 percent of accidents related to a lack of attention. So no cell phones or texting, and ignore the kids while driving. Pull over and park if you need to do something. Music, conversation, and drowsiness are also dangerous, but sometimes it's hard to avoid them.
5. Have your Roadside Assistance and claims reporting numbers handy.
Know if your car insurance policy includes rental reimbursement and roadside assistance coverages. If your car breaks down and you need to have it towed or rent another one, who will pay for it? You don't need roadside assistance coverage on your insurance policy if you already belong to an auto club. However, you might consider adding it if you only have towing and labor coverage – which doesn't cover mechanical breakdown not related to an accident.
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Originally posted May 13, 2008.
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