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Driving safely is smart during the holidays

Road travel –– particularly over long distances this holiday season –– can be a drag, especially if traffic snarls and bad weather get in the way, said a spokeswoman for the local Better Business Bureau.

Dottie Callina said safety should be a top priority for motorists, and that certain precautions should be considered before beginning the journey to a holiday destination.

"Because of weather conditions and increased traffic, staying safe on the road over the holidays takes a few additional precautions," added Fred Elsberry, Jr., president and CEO of the BBB Serving Metro Atlanta, Athens and Northeast Georgia. "Before loading up the family, make sure the car is in good shape, and you're prepared for bad weather."

While on the road, he said, put cell phones and Global Positioning Systems aside. Drivers must not allow distractions to hamper their ability to remain alert and aware of weather, road conditions and the scene around them, he added.

In many parts of the country, the holiday months come with the threat of dangerous winter weather, said Callina. Snow and ice can lead to car accidents, mechanical failures, long delays and road closures, she said.

Motorists should create a safety kit for their holiday driving, she cautioned. The kit should contain a blanket, flashlight, extra batteries, radio, first-aid kit, jumper cables, non-perishable foods, bottled water, an ice scraper and warm gloves, she explained.

To avoid having a car malfunction on the side of road, said Callina, take the vehicle to the mechanic before the road trip. If it's not time for a routine checkup, drivers should check the car's fluid levels, wipers, tire conditions and tire pressure.

"If you plan on driving through serious winter weather, consider snow tires," she said. "And don't speed," she added.

The best way to get through holiday traffic, she advised, is to do proper planning on the front end, making sure you allow ample time to get to your destination. Speeding can cause accidents, which may back up traffic even more, she pointed out, and can also lead to costly citations from law enforcement officers.

Callina said motorists should download the BBB app to their smartphones ahead of time, just in case they need to use a business or service, because of something that happens during a trip. That way, they have an easy way to see if they are about to deal with a business accredited by the BBB.

"When you're away from home, or in the midst of an emergency, it's hard to know which businesses — such as tow trucks and locksmiths — you can trust," she said.