12/01/2014 09:37 am ET Updated Jan 31, 2015

How Prepared Are You for the Holiday Travel Season?

Are you driving to visit family or friends this holiday season? If so, how prepared do you feel? If you're like most drivers, you feel confident but according to a new survey from AARP Driver Safety, you may be missing some critical steps in your preparation.

We asked more than 1,200 drivers age 30 and older about how they prepare for trips of 50 miles or more. We found some key areas where all drivers could use a refresher about how to prepare before they hit the road. Here they are:

1. When planning for a long distance trip, drivers tend to focus more on preparing their car than their route.
80% of drivers prepare by always ensuring their vehicle is up-to-date on service. Yet only 26% prepare by always planning to avoid dimly lit conditions and only 33% always make plans to avoid bad weather.

How can drivers better prepare? There are times during the day that you are more alert than others. Yet, how often have you decided to leave for a trip at an odd hour to avoid traffic? Driving very early in the morning or late at night, during your body's natural sleep cycle, increases your risk of being involved in a crash.
  • Plan to drive when you are most alert. If you can, leave the night before you have to be somewhere and stop at a hotel along the way to get a good night's sleep. This strategy also helps to break up longer road trips that can leave you fatigued by the end of the drive.
  • Travel with a co-pilot and stop every 100 miles or every two hours to switch drivers.
  • If you have to travel when it's snowing, slow down and increase the following distance between your car and the car in front of you.

2. In general, the extent to which drivers engage in vehicle preparation increases with age.
Older drivers, age 50+ are particularly likely to always ensure their mirrors are adjusted properly, check their tire pressure, and confirm that windshield wipers are in good condition.

How can drivers better prepare? If you've ever rented a car, you're familiar with the normal routine of inspecting the car before you drive it off the lot. Have you ever considered doing the same with your own car? Before your next driving trip, do a 360-degree inspection. It can be as simple as taking a walk around the vehicle while fueling up at the gas station. Check for proper tire inflation, signs of fluid leaks and wear of windshield wipers. This is also a great time to clean your windows, headlights and side mirrors.

3. What drivers believe is important doesn't always reflect how they actually behave.
85% of all drivers believe having a first aid kit in the car is important for a long trip, yet only 60% typically have one in the car. Similarly, 72% of drivers believe having flares or warning reflectors is important, yet only 37% typically have them in their vehicle.

How can drivers better prepare? As we head into the holiday season, think about giving all the drivers in your life a road safety kit. Include things like a jack and lug wrench for changing tires, a flashlight with good batteries, a fire extinguisher, a first aid kit, flares and/or warning reflectors, spare fuses, jumper cables, water and nonperishable food, and sandpaper (to clean battery terminals if the car won't start). If you live in a cold climate, add items like an ice scraper, a small shovel, sand or kitty litter (to provide extra traction on icy pavement), tire chains, and a blanket.

The next few weeks will be some of the busiest on America's roads. Now is a critical time to think about what we can do to ready ourselves to be safer and better prepared drivers. Our survey results are a reminder that we can never get too comfortable or take our preparedness for granted. How will you rethink your pre-road trip routine?