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Smart Tools for Your Summer Road Trip

(ARA) – Summer vacation will be here before you know it, and if you’re planning to make this the year you go on the “great American road trip,” you’ll need to bring along some patience.

According to Texas Transportation Institute’s 2007 Urban Mobility Report, traffic congestion continues to worsen in American cities of all sizes. Among the key reasons cited in the study, an increase in population, accidents, incidents such as stalled vehicles and outdated roads unable to handle today’s greater traffic volume. Communities throughout the U.S. are now in the midst of major construction projects to alleviate traffic congestion, but those projects serve to compound the bottleneck problem.

Prevent yourself from spending a good chunk of your next vacation stuck in traffic by doing these five things:

1. Make sure your vehicle is in tip-top shape before setting out.
No one wants to spend part of their vacation sitting in a car dealership or in a local mechanic’s grimy waiting area because their car has broken down. Before the trip, have your vehicle’s systems checked to make sure there will be no surprises once you’re on the road. It’s especially important to check brakes and all belts and fluids, service the coolant system, and check tire integrity.

2. Pre-plan your route.
In the old days, it was okay to go into a trip with just an updated paper map in hand. But these days, technology makes more instructive resources available. For city and suburban segments, areas where you are most likely to hit traffic, log on to to find the most up-to-date traffic information along the route you plan to follow. Not only will the site alert you to congestion, detours and alternate routes, it offers access to information about real-time delays caused by accidents and incidents as well.

Log on before leaving home (or your hotel room, since most hotels now offer guests free Internet access) to check driving conditions along your route. You can also access’s mobile Web site from your Web-enabled cell phone at , or by calling’s hotline at (866) MY-TRAFC (866-698-7232). All of these free resources provide you the latest traffic information along your route .

3. Avoid driving at peak times.
No one enjoys sitting in traffic; it’s annoying at best. To make your driving time both efficient and enjoyable, avoid high-traffic hours and locales where commuters fill the roads. Plan to get on the road after the morning rush ends — typically 9 a.m. in most urban areas — and wrap up your day’s travels just before the evening rush starts. In most cities or suburbs, that may be as early as 3:30 p.m.

4. If you are going to use a GPS navigation device, update your maps before setting out on your trip.
According to statistics kept by NAVTEQ, the most widely used map for navigation, since 1999 nearly 18 million U.S. and Canadian vehicles have been equipped with either in-dash or portable electronic navigation systems that make use of Global Positioning System (GPS) data to help commuters plan their routes.

A hands-free map is not the only benefit an in-vehicle navigation system offers. There’s also the time-savings, as you’ll be far less likely to get lost while trying to reach your destination; not to mention gas savings. By knowing exactly how to get to your destination, even when in unfamiliar areas, you are less likely to drive out of your way searching for street names or the next turn.  

“It’s important to keep in mind that in order for GPS information to be useful, the data must be used in conjunction with an accurate, up-to-date digital map,” advises Cliff Fox of NAVTEQ. “We feel NAVTEQ maps are an excellent solution because they’re updated regularly to deliver accuracy.” Not only do the maps provide up-to-date road information, but details about amenities you’ll find along the way, such as restaurants, ATM machines, gas stations and rest stops. Log on to to purchase the latest maps available for your in-vehicle or portable navigation device.

5. Be sure to bring along activities to keep everyone on the trip occupied.
While casual conversation and books on tape will keep the adults entertained, if you’re traveling with children, it would be a good idea to bring along a portable DVD player, books, handheld games and snacks.

Enjoy your trip!

Courtesy of ARAcontent