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Labor Day weekend is upon us and the friendly crew at Rusty Wallace Ford in Dandridge wants us all to think about trying to sneak in one last road trip as summer turns to fall.

When taking to the open road, it is important to focus on safety. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says that planning and prevention can spare road-trippers from the consequences of breakdowns, traffic accidents or other road emergencies.

· Stock emergency preparedness items. Prior to a trip, drivers should make sure their vehicles are equipped with necessary safety items. Liberty Mutual Insurance New Beginnings Report warns that nearly half of Americans do not check that proper emergency items are stored in their vehicles prior to getting on the road. Before embarking on a road trip, make sure vehicles have a first aid kit, flashlight, water bottles, phone chargers, tire-repair tools, flares, jumper cables, towels and even an old backpack for storage.

· Schedule a service call. Regular maintenance can keep vehicles from breaking down. Drivers should take their cars in for a tune-up before long road trips. Such tune-ups should include an oil change, battery check, tire rotation and any other necessary servicing.

· Be prepared. While it may be fun to just cut loose and explore, most road trippers go with a specific route in mind. Whether you’re free styling or driving to get somewhere specific, modern technology can help. For instance, the Ford Taurus comes with available navigation featuring a complimentary six-month subscription to SiriusXM and five-year free subscription to Traffic and Travel Link, SYNC 3 features easy destination entry. It’s easy to locate that hard-to-find restaurant, the nearest ATM or a highly rated coffee shop. Plus, responsive, adaptive search results are based upon your preferences. With SYNC 3, you can easily get to your destination with audible turn-by-turn navigation, along with continuously updated directions, weather information, traffic delays, alternate route suggestions and more.

· Join a roadside repair service. Breakdowns happen even if trips are carefully planned. Automotive clubs can help drivers when breakdowns occur. Some car manufacturers also include roadside assistance in warranty packages, so inquire about your coverage.

· Refresh defensive driving skills. A safe-driving course can remind drivers of the rules of the road. In some cases, courses also may qualify drivers for discounts on their auto insurance policies. One such class is the AARP Driver Safety course.

· Avoid distractions. Keep children and other passengers occupied so they are not a distraction to the driver. Set out with favorite music, books, video games, or even a pad and paper for doodling. Pack snacks to keep everyone feeling full in between roadside pit stops. Drivers also can load their cars up with tissues, water and music to limit distractions. For instance, the Ford Escape comes equipped with a number of available driver-assist features that make getting wherever easy, effortless and enjoyable. From available SYNC 3 and Ford+Alexa to FordPassConnect with Wi-Fi hotspot, next-level technology offerings make Escape one smart SUV. For added confidence on the road, you’ll appreciate the Ford Safe and Smart Package, BLIS (Blind Spot Information System) with cross-traffic alert, Lane-Keeping System, adaptive cruise control and forward collision warning with brake support, and enhanced active park assist all of which can you help avoid distractions or help protect when inevitable distractions occur.

· Plan fun breaks along the way. Breaks give drivers a reason to rest and passengers an opportunity to get out and stretch their legs. The Roadside America smartphone app lists must-see stops along any route, and drivers can plan their own stops as well.

· Stay over if necessary. According to the NHTSA, driving while drowsy is a contributing factor in 100,000 accidents every year. Drive only when well-rested. Share driving duties or plan a night at a motel so everyone is well-rested.

Before you do hit the road, be sure to head to Rusty Wallace Ford to test drive a new car to help get you to your intended destination. Road trips are all about fun, but drivers must emphasize safety before and during such excursions and getting behind the wheel of a safe but exciting new car makes that road trip all the more special.

-Sponsored by Rusty Wallace Ford.