Summer road trip tips: Car theft, headlight safety from experts

Summer road trip tips: Car theft, headlight safety from experts
2016-05-22 21:47:50 UTC

Approximately 69 percent of Americans are planning a family road trip over 50 miles in the next 12 months, according to 24/7 Wall St. While Memorial Day is considered the unofficial start of summer, it’s also the fourth most popular day for auto theft. In addition to theft, road travelers also have to make sure their cars are in tip-top condition during the trip, including headlight quality.

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(Memorial Day, photo credit: Pixabay)

According to Federal Highway Administration Research and Technology, ”improvements in roadway designs, barriers, vehicle dynamics, and the visibility of pavement markings and signage are reducing the risk of serious crashes” on roadways. Advanced technology and driver behavior are also helping to improve nighttime visibility.

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While a car owner can’t predict every possible scenario, Gurulife’s Shamontiel Vaughn spoke with two experts on safer road traveling. Patrick Clancy, the Vice President of LoJack, has a few travel tips that could decrease the odds of auto theft. Brian Noble, Marketing Manager at SYLVANIA Automotive Lighting, has tips to make driving safe all year round.

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(Photo credit: Pixabay)

Shamontiel Vaughn: Is it OK to leave a car idling, even during a quick pit stop during a road trip?

Patrick Clancy: During the spring and summer months, road trip travelers may be tempted to leave unattended vehicles idling in an effort to keep the air conditioning running. However, this is a major risk which can easily lead to auto theft, as car thieves look at these unattended vehicles as prime targets. Make sure to turn your car off and remove your keys at all times, even if it’s just a quick trip into the convenience store during a road trip.

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(Photo courtesy of Brian Noble)

SV: What is the best way to travel at night when there are no street lights above?

Brian Noble: Road familiarity plays a big role in safety in dark and low light situations, but we consider headlights to be the first line of defense. If you can’t see an object, you can’t react. On the flip side, if you can see an object sooner, you can make a better decision or reaction. Most people do not know their cars come with only basic halogen headlights designed for long life with acceptable performance. What people should know but don’t is there are choices for headlights that are brighter downroad, adding more light down the light, and some that also improve clarity. These choices are available for over 90 percent of vehicles on the road that use halogen headlights.

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(Photo credit: Pixabay)

SV: How safe are rest areas along the way?

PC: In terms of auto theft, it’s less about the location of your vehicle and more about the actions a vehicle owner/driver takes. A few best practices to mitigate the risk of auto theft, especially while on the road far from home, include conceal any valuables; park your car in a safe, well-lit area that gets plenty of foot traffic; and use a stolen vehicle recovery system to provide peace of mind.

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(Photo credit: Pixabay)

SV: When does using "the brights" become dangerous even if necessary while traveling?

BN: Drivers should use their high beams as often as possible for this simple reason: You see more because there is more light on the road and around the car. But high beams are designed to spread light all over the road area, which puts a lot of light in the glare zone for other drivers. If these lights are not dimmed, it creates a very difficult situation for other drivers on the road, which in turns makes the road unsafe for the driver with the lights on. High beams are also not suggested for use in a rainstorm, snowstorm or heavily foggy area. The light will reflect off of those more, making it difficult to see the road in front of you.

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(Photo credit: Pixabay)

SV: Anymore tips for headlight maintenance while traveling?

BN: 1. Understand the choices in headlight performance levels. For instance, there are options available that offer brighter downroad visibility or whiter light, which improves contrast and helps drivers distinguish objects on the side of the road better than basic headlights.

2. Replace before burnout. With one headlight out, drivers are essentially seeing half as well as they potentially could. If a vehicle owner cannot remember the last time headlights were changed, it may be time for replacements.

3. Always replace in pairs. A new bulb paired with an old bulb will create an uneven field of vision, which can be a major distraction on the road for both drivers and oncoming traffic.

4. Do it yourself: Changing a vehicle’s headlight bulb can be a simple process that doesn’t require a mechanic or service professional.

5. Restore cloudy lenses: Older vehicles tend to have yellow, hazy headlight assemblies due to degradation from the sun’s bright rays. This can also impact the quality of light emitted from your headlights.

6. LED bulbs: LEDs have another major benefit of lighting up to full power almost instantly.  The difference of time between LEDs and incandescent lights at highway speeds is almost 18 feet in increased cushion for the vehicle trailing. Every foot and every second counts when it comes to safety.

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