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Get behind the wheel, not the eight ball, this holiday weekend

AAA says 39 million people will be taking road trips over Thanksgiving. The roads will be busy, and the weather may not cooperate. We know that accidents will happen in and around Albany, but we can take steps to reduce the odds we are at fault.

It may not be time for your car's checkup, but take care of it anyway before you hit the road. Check the oil, the transmission fluid, the windshield wiper fluid. Make sure all the lights are working -- headlights, high beams, back-up lights, turn signals, everything on your vehicle that can make driving at night or in bad weather safer for you and that, even in good weather, can help everyone else on the road see you.

Test the air pressure in your tires and inspect the tread. If your car needs snow tires, have them put on before your trip.

Check road conditions before you leave, and check to see if there are any construction projects along the route. If there is a detour, map it out so you know where you are headed and how much time it will add to the trip. Remember, too, to keep your gas tank full -- if you are taken way out of your way, there may not be a gas station for a while.

Some people will leave their own cars at home and take a rental car. Many travelers who fly will rent a car at their destination. Before you drive off the lot, take a few minutes to familiarize yourself with the vehicle. Know where the high beam switch is, know what all the gauges on the dashboard mean, and know which side the gas tank is on and how to add windshield wiper fluid. Take a moment, too, to adjust the seat for both comfort and safety, and don't forget to check all of the mirrors.

Basic safety steps can minimize your risk and can minimize your liability if you are in an accident. Don't let your car ruin your holiday. You cannot control what other drivers do, but you can lower the odds that you will be the cause of a fender-bender much less someone getting hurt or killed in a crash.

Sources: 

Wall Street Journal, "Nearly 40 Million People Will Hit the Road Over Thanksgiving," AutoMD.com, Nov. 20, 2013

AAA, "43.4 Million Americans to Travel for Thanksgiving, a Slight Decline from Last Year," Heather Hunter, Nov. 20, 2013

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