I’ll be driving home to upstate New York after finals. Let’s face it, I have a clunker. I’ve been having some car troubles lately and I am a little worried I may run into problems as I drive home. Do you have suggestions for students driving home for the holidays?
Dear Concerned Driver,
The first question you need to ask yourself is how necessary is it for you to drive home. After weighing the risks and costs, it may be safer, easier and cheaper to fly home. However, if you are graduating and truly need your car, it is best to have a reputable mechanic provide a safety check including the radiator, tires, brakes, complete fluid check, and tune-up before driving any car that makes you a little worried.
Unfortunately, breakdowns and flat tires are risks of traveling. If you have to drive home, a mechanic should look at your car.
Should situations arise while driving home, consider the following advice:
At the first sign of car trouble, gradually take your foot off the accelerator. Do not brake hard or suddenly. Carefully work your car towards the breakdown lane or the side of the road. If you’re on an interstate, try to reach an exit. Signal your intentions to drivers behind you. If it’s necessary to change lanes, watch your mirrors and the traffic around you closely.
Once you pull off to the side, make sure other drivers can see your car by placing reflective triangles behind your car, igniting flares, and using your emergency flashers or hazard lights. Obviously, you may need to purchase the triangles and flares before your trip.
You can buy the triangles, flares, and emergency car kits at retailers including Sears, Discount Auto Parts and Target.
When you have a flat tire, change the tire, as you normally would, just be sure you are not too close to traffic. Before you travel, make sure you have your jack and spare tire with the appropriate air pressure in your trunk.
If you don’t know how to repair your car, its best to get professional help. Don’t flag down other vehicles, just raise your hood and tie something white to the radio antenna or hang it out a window to indicate to a police officer or tow truck operator that you need help.
Don’t stand behind or next to your vehicle. If the car is in the roadway, stand away from the vehicle and wait for help to arrive.
If your car is safely out of traffic, wait inside the vehicle with the doors locked. Use your cellular phone to call for help. If someone stops and offers to help, open the window slightly and ask them to call the police.
Watch for a uniformed police officer or other emergency personnel. Police patrol all interstate highways and major roads regularly. Some highways have special “call-for-help” phones. In Florida, dialing *FHP will connect you with the Florida Highway Patrol.
It’s dangerous to walk on an interstate, especially during inclement weather. However, if help is just a short walk away and you can make it without jeopardizing your safety, try walking. Keep as far from traffic as possible and walk on the right side of the roadway. Never attempt to cross a multi-lane, high-speed roadway.
If you need more traveling tips, contact UM Public Safety at (305) 284-6666.
Javonne Stewart is a freshman majoring in English. She works in the Wellness Suite of the Wellness Center.