■ By Richard Perry / Contributed
This last Halloween night the guys and I were handing out treats from the bed of our truck at the Dwelling Place Church’s annual “Trunk or Treat” event. We enjoyed ourselves, hayride and all. The only scary part was the drive home – there were so many ghosts and goblins hunting for sweets in the streets. After the sugar rush of Halloween has subsided, it’s time to start planning for Thanksgiving – the time of year when families travel to friends’ and relatives’ homes – sometimes considerable distances.
Many times, even before the menu is planned, arguments begin as to who will host the gathering. If you’re the lucky one who gets to stay home and have everyone come to you this Thanksgiving, that’s great. All you have to worry about is probably the turkey and whether your bathrooms are clean enough for Uncle Frank, who always asks, “Did you wash your hands?” when someone walks out of the bathroom.
But if you are one of those who gets to make the road trip, this column is for you. According to AAA, driving remains the most popular mode of travel for Thanksgiving – 48.7 million Americans drove for their Thanksgiving dinner in 2016. This year AAA expects that number to surpass 49 million.
Last year I wrote about how to transport all that delicious food in the car. We’ll revisit some of those tips and also include a few new ones about getting to your destination safely.
Unrestrained objects can seriously injure, or kill, passengers in vehicles. A study of children involved in car crashes conducted by Intel Corp. and the University of California, Irvine, revealed some alarming statistics: of the more than 12,500 children injured by an item inside the car during a crash, at least 3,000 collided with unrestrained objects, a passenger, or both.
Unrestrained cargo may even cause death in a front impact crash by striking an occupant’s seat-back, and loose objects in the car can become lethal in an emergency braking situation, according to the study. Here are some tips to secure cargo in your vehicle while making the trip to Aunt Jane’s or grandma’s house.
Casserole dishes, slow cookers and 12-volt heaters/coolers
Don’t force anyone to hold those burning-hot casserole dishes. Instead, invest in a travel casserole dish. You can get one for less than $30 at any store that sells housewares, or of course, online – Amazon has a good selection. If you don’t have a travel casserole dish and don’t want to invest in one, use two or more rubber bands to secure the lid to the dish.
Slow cookers with locking lids can help keep any leaks or spills from making a big mess. They can be found for about $40 and up. According to some estimates, an item that weighs just 20 pounds (like a slow cooker) can hit a person with 600 pounds of force if involved in a 35 mph crash. Because they are hot and heavy, it’s best to keep slow cookers out of the passenger compartment. The best place to put them (and casserole dishes) is inside a tote basket or laundry basket lined with towels.
Stash the basket on the floor behind the driver’s seat or better yet, secure it in your car’s cargo space using a few bungee cords and the tie-down anchor points in the cargo floor. If the dish happens to leak during transport, the towels will soak up any mess. If you don’t have a leak, your kids can roll the towels up after dinner and use them as pillows on the drive home.
A portable 12-volt heater/cooler that plugs into your vehicle’s 12-volt outlet is the perfect tool to keep food at a consistent temperature – hot or cold. While you’re limited as to where you can secure it in the car based on where the outlet is located, be sure to secure it safely. Again, getting creative with bungee cords is a great option.
Now that we’ve got the menu covered, AAA has some tips to safely get you to Aunt Jane’s and back.
1. Fuel up. Always fill up your gas tank before heading out on a long trip. Also check engine fluids and tire pressures. Make sure to carry enough cash if you need to fill up before the drive home.
2. Be prepared. Medical emergencies can and do happen anywhere. Stock your car with an emergency kit—especially a flashlight, blanket, water, nonperishable snacks, first-aid kit, and some basic tools. These things fit nicely in a spare backpack.
3. Pack smart. Don’t overload your vehicle. The load rating – the total weight you can carry including passengers and cargo – is printed on a sticker inside the driver’s door jamb.
4. Track it. A portable GPS navigation system will get you there via the quickest route, making it easy to find gas stations or restaurants along the way. Most smartphones are equipped with this feature and numerous apps, such as Waze, are readily available.
5. Kid prep. Pack enough snacks, water, games, videos/DVDs, and music to keep them occupied during your journey. Remember “Mad Libs?” They still exist and they still keep kids amused.
6. Traveling with pets. Secure your pets with harnesses and seat belts or place them in a crate. Animals can be a dangerous distraction when driving and physical threat in an accident, should they travel about the cabin or escape onto a busy motorway, says AAA. Bring water, food, toys, leash, and clean-up supplies—you never know. If you can, leave Fido at home and bring him some leftovers.
7. Be patient. During busy travel times, expect to hit traffic. Change your travel plans to drive late at night or early in the morning to avoid the rush and ensure you get to your destination on time and with minimal stress.
8. Don’t be distracted. Cell phones and driving don’t mix, so if you need to send a message or make a call, hand your phone to a passenger or pull over. It’s against the law and not worth your life or the lives of others.
9. Buckle up. Always use your seat belt, make sure children are properly secured in a car seat and are seated in the rear seats if they are under 13.
10. Keep control. Stay calm, sober, and be prepared to get through any challenge.
And one more tip…don’t drive tired. If you’re tired, take a short nap or drink some coffee…but wait about 30 minutes for the caffeine to take effect before hitting the road.
The Hemet Car Guy