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Ask a trooper: Tips for a safe road trip

Heading out of town this holiday weekend, or anytime this summer? Washington State Patrol Trooper Johnna Batiste says don't leave home without knowing these tips first.

GIG HARBOR, Wash. — Road trip season is nearly upon us! Are you prepared? If you're like me you think you are, but most definitely are not.

Washington State Patrol Trooper Johnna Batiste hit the road with me behind the wheel to give us her top road tip pro tips for having a safe and comfortable time on those long car trips. 

Road trip pro tip #1

Know where the heck you're going. It may seem like an obvious tip, but the truth is many of us will be driving down unfamiliar highways. Trooper Batiste said her time as a 911 dispatcher taught her just how important it is to know our location at all times.

"You need to know, in case of an emergency, what direction you're going and what roadway you're on,” Trooper Batiste said.

For example, imagine having an emergency but not being able to tell the dispatcher where you are.

Road trip pro tip #2

Trooper Batiste cited a few easy ways we can all keep track of where we are during those long road trips:

1 - Watch for the signs. Black and white signs mark a state route; blue signs mark the interstate.

2 - Watch for exit numbers. Foe example, the exit numbers on I-5 in Washington state correlate to the mileposts. Exit number 130 is near milepost 130, which is 130 miles from the Washington/Oregon state line.

3 - If you can't seem to spot a road marker or exit number, pay attention to what you do see. If there's a giant restaurant you pass, make note of it.

Road trip pro tip #3

Stock up your car for potential emergencies. Trooper Batiste recommends gathering together some emergency equipment, like traffic flares, flashlights, and anything that will help you be prepared or "help yourself until help gets to you."

That includes knowing how to change a tire. Even if you learned how to change one back in the day, Trooper Batiste recommends re-learning any time a car is "new to you."

Read the manual for your car, or even look up videos for it on YouTube.

Road trip pro tip #4

Stay fueled and stay awake. Obviously, you want to keep your car fully gassed up, but you also need to make sure you're fueled with snacks, water, caffeine, anything that will keep you alert.

Trooper Batiste said drowsy driving is a big concern, that's why there are rest areas all over the state. They're required to be there, and they offer not only restrooms but often times free coffee, and a chance for everyone in the car to get fresh air and stretch their legs.

Road trip pro Tip #5

If your kids fall asleep in the back, they still need to do so safely. Lying down in the backseat to take a nap, even if your seatbelt is on, is not legal.

"No lying down in the backseat," Trooper Batiste said. "What happens to your body in a collision, you don't want to be lying down."

And you definitely don't want to be unbuckled.

"Unfortunately, you then become a projectile in the car. You're loose in the car," she said. "So you never want to put yourself or your kids in that position."

Bonus road trip pro tip

Our final tip comes from a random fellow driver on the highway. Trooper Batiste and I were wrapping up our mini-road trip when another driver started honking at us.

He drove alongside us first on the passenger side, then on the driver's side, honking and pointing. It took us a bit to figure out what he was pointing at: Our hood was up.

Which reminded Trooper Batiste of her final road trip pro tip: "Doing a safety check of your car!"

Make sure you take a walk around your vehicle and look for any potential safety issues like low tires, lights that might be out, or the hood that might be up (whoops).

Don't worry, I fixed it all by myself and apologized profusely to my fellow passengers. As it turns out, I had popped it open at the beginning of our road trip thinking it was the emergency brake. So, there's that. 

Happy road tripping!

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