June is well under way and with school out for the summer and travel by car in the future for many families, we wanted to cover some safety items that might aid you on your next family trip.
By spending a few minutes to check these often overlooked items you will greatly improve you and your family’s safety, especially if you are planning any long road trips.
One of the most important items on your vehicle is where the rubber meets the road. Your tires have built in wear bars, which if exposed, indicate it is time to replace your tires. These bars run across the tread gaps in your tires which channel water out and away from your path when you are driving.
These bars will typically be flush with the tire when your depth reaches 3/32s of tread left. Texas State Law mirrors the federal law and states a minimum tread depth of 2/32s shall exist for a tire to be legally used on the road
The driver of a vehicle may be cited for having bald tires if the tire falls below this depth. Having a blow out at highway speeds can be a potentially life threatening event, and the main cause of highway blowouts are improperly maintained tires. Each tire will also have an age indicator which will tell you the week and year they were manufactured. It is generally 4 numbers inside an oval design on the tire, such as 1016.
This tire would have been made in the 15th week of 2004. Tires generally have a useful service life of 6 to 10 years, not considering tread wear from miles driven and the way you drive which will also affect the life of a tire. Tires should be rotated regularly to evenly distribute wear, and the air pressure should be maintained at the recommended levels.
Windshield wipers are another big safety item. Most wipers are good for about 20,000 miles of driving, but depending on the climate and whether the vehicle is parked inside or out, they can fail much earlier. Wipers are a soft rubber, and heavy use can cause the rubber to dry up and eventually separate from the mount.
When your wipers begin to show signs of any of the above, they should be replaced. While you are checking the rubber on your wipers make sure to fill your windshield washer fluid as well since you will likely need this to clear grime and bugs off the windshield even if you don’t encounter rain on your trip.
Since the hood is up to check the windshield washer fluid, it’s a good idea to do a basic fluid check of your oil, coolant, and brake/steering fluids as well. The transmission fluid, if not a sealed system, should be checked as well.
Lastly and probably most often overlooked, you should inspect all vehicle lights to ensure they are functional. Side marker lights, license plate lights, and signal lights often get missed when they burn out. Check your brake lamps and ensure all three from the rear are functional. The high mounted center stop lamp on trucks and SUVs often goes out and is not noticed. Make sure all light lenses are clean and visible as well.
Should your vehicle become disabled on a trip, The Texas Department of Public Safety provides a stranded motorist hotline (1-800-525-5555) to call for assistance from the local law enforcement agency where you are located.
Most cell phone providers also have *DPS (*377) as an option to reach the same hotline and if you forget both the number is located on the back of your driver’s license on the right hand side.
The dispatcher will route your call to the appropriate county sheriff’s department or municipal law enforcement department where you are located.
Examples of when a motorist may call the Hotline include:
- stranded with car problems
- hazardous road conditions
- debris in the roadway
- suspicious activity at a rest area
- obviously intoxicated or dangerous drivers
If the situation is an emergency, motorists should call 9-1-1.
Follow this link to learn more about the DPS program: Texas DPS Hotline Info
If your vehicle can be driven safely, try to get off of the highway to an exit ramp to wait for assistance, and note any mile marker signs, which are in green on all highways, to help the responding units locate you.
Harris County ESD 48 Fire Department and our members wish you and your’s safe travels on all your summer adventures. Stay safe out there!