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Stay safe while traveling this weekend with these Memorial Day driving tips

Atlanta traffic jam self-driving
Memorial Day weekend is typically one of the worst when it comes to traffic, and AAA expects 2016 to be particularly bad. It’s forecasting the busiest Memorial Day weekend since 2005. Largely because of low gas prices, 38 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more over the holiday weekend — and 33.9 million of those people will go by car.

That should make for some grueling traffic and, AAA says, increased chances of crashes. The odds of getting into a crash increase with the number of cars on the road, the group says. So, along with Michelin, it put together a list of Memorial Day driving safety tips.

Most of those tips involve checking a car before a trip to make sure it’s ready to go. That includes inspecting the vehicle to make sure things like lights, hoses, windshield wipers, fluids, and tires are in good condition before setting off. The “penny test” can be used to check the condition of tires. It involves simply sticking a penny upside down into tread grooves of the tire. If all of Lincoln’s head is exposed, it’s time to replace that tire.

Read more: How to change your car’s oil

While you’re squatting on the ground to check tire wear, it’s a good idea to check tire pressure, too. Underinflated tires have less grip, adversely affect fuel economy, and wear out more quickly. Heat increases air pressure, so always check tires when they’re cold (before, not after, driving). The correct pressures are listed on a placard in the driver’s side door jamb. Check the spare (where applicable) periodically, too, to make sure it’s in good condition and inflated.

It’s always tempting to stuff a car full of people and things, but packing light can improve fuel economy, handling, and braking distances. Once out on the road, it’s also very important for drivers to remain alert. There are lots of distractions nowadays, from smartphones to snacks to rowdy children. Yet, a driver’s first priority should always be driving. Modern cars have loads of safety systems and tech features meant to minimize or account for distraction, but there’s no substitute for simply paying attention in the first place.

Finally, AAA and Michelin advise to keep emergency supplies like jumper cables, road flares, a first aid kit, reflective triangles, nonperishable food, and a flashlight with extra batteries in the car, just in case. It’s also a good idea to program emergency numbers, like for a roadside assistance provider, into your phone, and keep a backup written list in the glove box.

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