With Americans traveling more this summer, tips for safe travel

An enduring love of road trips and stable gas prices are combining to increase the miles Americans expect to log during this summer’s travel season.

The longer trips defy early season predictions of fewer and shorter road vacations.

Gas prices rose toward $4 a gallon during the winter and early spring of 2012. Travel industry observers expected the traditional summer price spike would scare consumers away from long driving tips.

But the gas price spike didn’t materialize, and it appears that Americans aren’t too worried about what happens in July and August. Only 17 percent are holding off on travel plans, waiting to see whether gas prices come down. The rest have made their plans and they’re hitting the road.

Americans plan to drive an average of 212 miles farther in 2012 than they did in 2011 according to the Hankook Summer Gauge Index, which surveyed 1,012 randomly selected Americans. The mean distance of the miles survey respondents are planning to travel jumped from 725 miles in 2011 to 937 miles this year.

Tips for breakdown-safe travel

With more people on the road driving further, vehicle maintenance is even more important for preventing breakdowns. Summer heat is hard on engines and tires. A few simple precautions can help reduce the chances of getting stranded on a back road, in a parking lot or, worse, on the highway:

* Check fluid levels. Make sure the check includes topping off antifreeze, window washer, brake and transmission fluids.

* Check brakes and brake pads, especially if you can’t remember how long since they were last checked.

* Park your car in the shade when possible, and keep a pressure gauge handy to check tire pressure often. Heat is your tires’ enemy. Air in your vehicle’s tires expands as temperatures rise – In fact for every 10-degree increase in ambient air temperature, your tire’s inflation pressure can go up by about 1 pound per square inch.

* Check your trunk to make sure you have the tools you need to change a flat: a spare tire, a lug wrench and a jack.

* Check the tread depth on your tires at least once a month to avoid hydroplaning on wet roads. If you’re in search of an excellent tire for summer and year-round traction, look at Hankook’s Optimo H426 luxury performance touring all-season tire. The Optimo H426 is designed with an advanced silica tread compound which offers improved tread wear and lower rolling resistance for better fuel economy.

On the road, what now?

In addition to asking how far Americans will drive this summer, the index also asked drivers what they like to do while they’re logging miles, and with whom.

Traveling with a spouse or partner was by far the most popular choice for a road trip at 48 percent. Younger Americans are more likely to travel in packs; 22 percent of drivers 35 and under are road tripping with groups of friends this summer.

The lone-wolf appeal of a solo trip is pretty limited. Only 7.3 percent are traveling alone this summer.

Playing music was the runaway favorite pastime, with 60 percent of drivers saying they need their tunes. Men favor music more than women – women are more likely to turn off the radio and talk to other passengers to pass the time.

While talking with other passengers came in at 23 percent, singing and playing games were way down the list at 4 and 3 percent respectively.

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