IMG_0235With Christmas and New Year’s Day only days away, many Arizonans will be hitting the road, heading out of town for the holidays. AARP Driver Safety is offering some vehicle-safety travel tips for packing suitcases, bags and boxes during this busy holiday season.

“Many people take advantage of their vehicle’s roof to stow luggage, boxes or bags when traveling, but if your items are not secured properly, they can put you or other motorists at risk,” said Cynthia Fagyas, AARP Arizona Associate State Director. “Hundreds of accidents occur every year as a result of improperly packed cargo falling off the roofs of vehicles.”

AARP Driver Safety is offering these safety tips to help holiday travelers control their cargo when hitting the road this holiday season.

1. Be cautious when carrying items on a vehicle’s roof. A roof rack is a smart way to make room in a vehicle especially for the comfort of passengers. But it’s important to know how to secure items on a roof rack. Check with a skilled professional when buying a rack and make sure to get necessary ropes, straps, and hooks to secure your load. Once on the road, stop often to check the roof-top cargo. Tightening the restraints may be needed over the course of a trip.

2. Know your vehicle’s weight limit. Adding weight of any kind to a vehicle can affect its performance and handling. Windy conditions or bad weather can make a vehicle more difficult to maneuver. Driving with heavy loads creates wind resistance which causes lower gas mileage. Overloading can damage a vehicle’s suspension and increase wear on tires. Make sure any added cargo inside or on the roof doesn’t push your vehicle over its maximum legal weight limit.

3. Maintain a clear view of the road. When packing items, keep a clear line of sight through the front windshield, side mirrors, the rearview mirror and rear window. Pack items lower than seat backs. This reduces the risk of items flying forward in the event of a sudden stop or accident.

4. Secure loose items inside the car. Loose items inside a vehicle can be distracting or hazardous in the event of sudden braking. Never place items like shoes, small bags or purses on the floor near the driver-side feet pedals.

5. Be mindful of others on the road. When traveling with a heavy load, follow the speed limit and leave plenty of room between your vehicle and the vehicle ahead of you. More time is needed to come to a complete stop with added weight. Travel in the right lane and only use the left lane for passing. Make sure to check blind spots, mirrors and use turn signals when passing, changing lanes or merging.

For more tips on how to stay safe on the road, consider taking the AARP Smart Driver Course available in a classroom or online in English and Spanish. In some states, you may be eligible for a multi-year insurance discount upon completion of the course.*

Visit AARP Smart Driver or call 1-888-AARP-NOW (1-888-227-7669) for more information.

*The insurance premium discount is not available in all states for the online or the classroom versions of the course. Please consult your insurance agent for further details.