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5 steps for a safe family road trip

A little pre-trip planning can go a long way toward making your family's road trip safe and memorable.

Family with dog getting un-packing car while on trip

Road trips — and all their resulting funny stories, sibling squabbles and wrong turns — are a great American pastime. But safety missteps don't have to be part of that family bonding. Follow these steps to help ensure a safe, memorable trip.

Step 1:
Call your mechanic (and your insurance company) before the trip.

Schedule a tune-up with checks on wiper blades, lights, tires, battery, fluids and any other essentials. Tell your mechanic that you're planning a long trip and ask if he or she has any concerns about your vehicle. And call your State Farm agent to make sure you have emergency road service coverage: It can help if you get a flat, have a breakdown or simply run out of gas.

Step 2:
Clean your car and check your child safety seats.

Take out any clutter, wipe down air vents and give your car a thorough wash, giving extra attention to headlights, windows and mirrors. Inspect your child safety seats, too. You can find a certified tech to verify yours are installed correctly. The service is often free.

Step 3:
Map your route and update your emergency kit.

Sure, a smartphone or your vehicle's GPS can get you just about anywhere, but an hour or two of planning can help you find good pit stops along the way. While you're planning the drive, gather road-smart safety essentials such as first-aid items, a flashlight, a portable phone charger, a blanket and extra water, as well as jumper cables or a battery-charging kit.

Step 4:
Pack for safety.

Loose items and unsecured bags become dangerous if you stop suddenly or are in an accident. Put the heaviest items in the lowest spot and toward the center of your vehicle. Tie down bags or other bulky items such as strollers with webbed or corded straps, and keep windows unobstructed. Give each child a smaller bag to store snacks, electronics and other travel essentials within reach. If your family's pet is making the journey with you, secure them or their traveling kennel.

Step 5:
Sleep, drive and have fun.

Before you put the keys in the ignition, get a good night of sleep. If you're tired along the way, pull over and take a quick nap, and switch driving duties frequently with another adult, if you can. Your time on the road with family and friends isn't a race to get from one spot to the next. Relax, enjoy the sights and cement those memories for years to come.

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