Seasonal Safety Tips

Holiday Travel by Road – Best Practices

REMINDER: The key to safe travel in any area is situational awareness.  Know your surroundings and stay in control of every situation.

When you travel, plan ahead…

If traveling by vehicle, know where you are going and how to get there and back. Obtain a map or download the latest available GPS data. Check for construction detours; for longer trips, get a weather forecast.

If traveling out-of-state, most states and/or state law enforcement agencies provide road-and-highway information either on-line or at a 1-800 number; check to see what conditions they report before leaving. Visit the Federal Highway Administration’s related webpage…

National Traffic and Road Closure Information

…for national, regional, and state-by-state links regarding traffic, closures, and other conditions. Inform a family member where you will be and when to expect you back; give them your route if they don’t know it.

Travel and conduct your business during daylight hours if possible.

To the extent practical, select well-traveled and lighted thoroughfares. Bear in mind that routes which are congested during rush hour may be very lightly traveled at other hours. Use freeways and arterial streets and avoid less-traveled roads as much as possible, especially when driving at night or in unfamiliar locations.

If you have access to a cell phone, take it (but don’t use it while driving; this is now unlawful in many states).Know the emergency cell codes for the area you’re in. For example, in Texas, remember that…

*377 = DPS
(TX Department of Public Safety)

If planning a road trip over the holidays, have your vehicle serviced and checked out ahead of time to allow for repairs if needed. Don’t forget to have the mechanic check your spare tire and all fluid levels along with the other preventive maintenance procedures.

It is always good practice to put together a “breakdown kit” before traveling long distances…

Minimally, a “breakdown kit” should include:

  • a thermal blanket/bag and a gallon of water
  • a “HELP” sign/flag and flares/reflectors
  • a flashlight (check batteries semi-annually)
  • duct tape

Also consider carrying:

  • a set of jumper cables, a tire gauge, work gloves, and a few hand tools (pliers, screwdrivers, Allen wrenches)
  • some rope and at least one bungee cord
  • towels and a roll of toilet paper (in a plastic bag)
  • a small 12-volt tire-inflator
  • an empty (new, never used) one-gallon gas can
  • change for a payphone and a pair of comfortable shoes
  • a cheap/disposable rain coat/suit/poncho

All these items can fit in a small or medium size gym/duffle bag or a box and kept in your vehicle’s trunk, back-seat floorboard, or other storage area in the vehicle. Keep it updated, but never remove it from your vehicle.

In addition to your basic “breakdown kit” you should also have a basic first aid kit in your vehicle at all times.

Also consider purchasing and mounting a small ABC-rated portable fire extinguisher in your vehicle. Buy one with a mount designed for use in vehicles. Portable fire extinguishers should be securely mounted in the vehicle to prevent rolling and damage. The extinguisher should be visible and easy to reach. Mount the bracket on a strong, stable surface. It can be mounted in any sloping, vertical or horizontal position.

Know how to access your spare tire and jack. Vehicle owners should also consider obtaining towing insurance, either as a rider on their automobile insurance policy (such riders are usually very inexpensive for excellent coverage) or by joining an automobile club or other provider. Be prepared!

Remember: It doesn’t cost any more to keep the top quarter of your tank filled than it does to keep the bottom quarter filled.  Even if you’re pressed for time, take the few minutes needed to fill up the tank. Making a habit of checking your fuel gauge whenever you start driving, and routinely topping off your tank, can prevent unexpected, untimely and dangerous roadside emergency situations.

Resist distraction. If you feel yourself getting tired, pull over and take a break (at a safe location where there are other people and light).

Develop the habit of scanning for situational awareness. Use your mirrors frequently to check behind and to your sides. Look ahead, as far down the road as possible, to anticipate slow-downs, stops, snarls, crashes, emergencies, or other events which will affect traffic flow. Avoid the tunnel vision which often occurs during monotonous highway driving as you focus only immediately ahead or where your headlights reach.

If you experience a breakdown, pull as far onto the shoulder as possible and turn your emergency flashers on. If you have a cell phone, summon assistance from a reputable source or call for law enforcement response. Otherwise, raise your hood or tie a streamer to your antenna, and await assistance inside your locked vehicle.

If a stranger stops to check on your situation, speak to them through a partially rolled-down window, and ask them to go to a phone and call police or a tow service; do not exit your vehicle until a law enforcement officer or tow operator are on scene. On longer trips, be sure you have water, food, and blankets in the vehicle.

Should you observe anyone pulled off the roadway and apparently stranded or in need of assistance, extend them the courtesy of reporting your observation to the police at your earliest opportunity.

Never pick up hitchhikers!

*Report ANY suspicious activity and/or person(s) to local authorities.

Holiday Travel by Air – Best Practices

REMINDER:  Travelers often fall prey to perpetrators because they do not properly prepare before embarking on a trip. Let’s examine some things you should do to prevent your travels from becoming a tragedy:

  • Never list your home address on the luggage tag.  If you happen to be on business, put the company’s address on the tag.  If visiting friends you can list their address. Use covered luggage tags as well.
  • Stay with your luggage until the luggage is checked. If you must put your bag down, keep one foot on the handle.
  • Carry important papers with you; NEVER check anything that you simply cannot afford to lose. Photocopy your passport, driver’s license and credit cards.
  • Bring a small flashlight. You never know when you’ll suddenly be “in the dark” and find yourself in unfamiliar surroundings. At night, keep your flashlight by your bed.
  • Make sure that your prescription medicines are filled properly and labeled accurately.
  • Never wear anything that projects affluence. No gold chains, expensive watches and rings, luggage, or other paraphernalia should be in easy view. Better yet: leave your jewelry at home.
  • If possible, travel with only one or two credit cards.
  • If you must rent a car, rent only from a reputable company. Any operating problems that occur could signal sabotage.
  • If you summon a taxi for transportation, ensure it works for a reputable taxi company.
  • If traveling with children, bring along an updated photograph of each child in the event that you become separated from them.  Also, bring along a copy of each child’s birth certificate.

*Report ANY suspicious activity and/or person(s) to local authorities.

International Travel

Please visit the following site for current Travel Warnings, Travel Alerts, Scam Alerts, and Safety Tips before traveling abroad:

Holiday Shopping – Best Practices

  • Shop during daylight hours whenever possible. If you must shop at night, go with a friend or family member.
  • Dress casually and comfortably.
  • Avoid wearing expensive jewelry.
  • Do not carry a purse or wallet, if possible.
  • Always carry your Texas Driver License or Identification Card along with necessary cash, checks and/or a credit card you expect to use.
  • Even though you are rushed and thinking about a thousand things, stay alert to your surroundings.
  • Avoid carrying large amounts of cash.
  • Pay for purchases with a check or credit card when possible.
  • Keep cash in your front pocket.
  • Notify the credit card issuer immediately if your credit card is lost, stolen or misused.
  • Keep a record of all of your credit card numbers in a safe place at home.
  • Be extra careful if you do carry a wallet or purse. They are the prime targets of criminals in crowded shopping areas, transportation terminals, bus stops, on buses and other modes of rapid transit.
  • Avoid overloading yourself with packages. It is important to have clear visibility and freedom of motion to avoid mishaps.
  • Beware of strangers approaching you for any reason. At this time of year, con-artists may try various methods of distracting you with the intention of taking your money or belongings.