Glorious Memorial!! After a long hard winter in West Michigan, Memorial Day marks the beginning of summer and with it the promise of warmer weather, days on the beach, chasing fireflies and living the good summer life before its fleeting moments are gone again. If you’re like many people, you’ll be heading out of town for a minivacation or camping out but before you go, save yourself the headaches that can happen when you’re dealing with the stress of road closures and traffic jams on US131 and take a look at our recommendations for surviving Memorial Weekend travel.
Get Road Ready
Nothing is worse than thinking you’re all set to get out on the road so you can start enjoying that long vacation only to discover that your trusty stead has given up the ghost or dies on you on your way out of town! Take chance out of the equation and before you start putting the miles on, make sure your car, truck, minivan or SUV is road ready and roadworthy! Start with the basics by making sure your tires are properly inflated, your tank is full of gas and don’t forget to top off the washer fluid. It’s also a great idea to get that oil changed if you’re nearing time for one and make sure there are no dummy warning lights illuminated on your dashboard that indicate an ongoing problem.
Know Before You Go
While MDOT typically suspends its road work during long holiday weekends when the highways are more congested than usual to help travelers avoid large delays but sometimes projects don’t allow them to. Check out MDOT’s Interactive Map and do a construction project search before you go to not get caught off guard to avoid finding yourself smack dab in the middle of a traffic jam. In addition, using apps like Google Maps or Waze to get real-time traffic directions that will alert you to traffic accidents on your route or unexpected slowdowns can help you get there faster (and happier). Even if you are familiar with the route you are driving, using them on your way can minimize stress and take you on the faster route available in real-time.
Timing Is Everything
Traffic conditions can and will change depending on peak travel times, particularly during holiday weekends. Keep yourself ahead of the gang and out of the inevitable gridlock that happens during busy travel times on high traffic areas like US131 or I96 through Grand Rapids by avoiding your departure during rush hour traffic on Thursday or Friday night and coming home before noon or later in the evening on Memorial Day.
Added congestion on the roadways, frustration from traffic slowdowns and careless driving can add up for a deadly combination during holiday weekends. Yet despite the incredible advancements in safety features and production materials in vehicles, there are still people who choose not to use one of the biggest lifesavers since it became a requirement for all cars, vans, trucks and SUVs… the seatbelt! Wearing a seatbelt is not only a great idea but it’s also the law so make it a habit, not only on busy holiday weekends but every time you get behind the wheel of your car, van, truck or SUV, to put your seatbelt on. In addition, make sure children are properly buckled into car seats, booster seats or when they’re old enough, normal lap and shoulder restraints.
Drive Smart & Use Patience
Your number one job behind the wheel of a vehicle is to safely drive and in order to do that, you need to stay focused. Driving drowsy, distracted or impaired is not only unwise, it’s dangerous. The cold, harsh truth is that every 51 minutes, someone dies from an alcohol-related crash and sadly those odds increase over long holiday weekends. Save yourself and others the heartache of being behind the wheel while intoxicated and celebrate the holiday either sober or find a driver who hasn’t been drinking. Then once you’ve made that wise decision, stay alert and drive defensively which involves many things but can be broken down into: staying focused at the task at hand; scanning ahead for possible dangers or hazards in the road; creating a buffer zone around your vehicle; planning escape routes; staying alert; staying calm; controlling your speed.
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