This diary is inspired by the must read one by The Baculum King, on the recommended list. Please put off reading this and link to that one first.
I will not go over his excellent observations and suggestions, except to reiterate that cellular telephones and black (at home we call it "glare") ice are very underestimated sources of hazard. Pull over if you want to send or take a call, and drive very slowly on glare ice.
With that said, here are my suggestions for a safe trip. Please add any of yours in comments.
First, make sure that your vehicle is roadworthy. That means checking and topping off all fluids (in really bad weather country it is not a bad idea to carry extra windshield washer fluid), checking belts for tension and wear, and just doing a general, walk around visual inspection.
Look at your tires, and even better, buy a tire guage. The are not expensive, and not only help you determine tire pressure for fuel economy, they also let you know when your tires are dangerously underinflated. It turns out that tire pressure being low increases rolling resistance, and that, in minor cases, cuts economy, and, if major, compromises the integrity of the tire. The last thing that you want is a blowout at 70 mph.
Check your tires for wear. If your tread is less than 3/32 of in inch, consider replacing them. Take a US cent and put it in the groove in the tread. If you can see the top of Lincoln's head, they are badly worn. Also check for bad spots. If you see what looks like steel wool and a crack, replace your tires or do not drive. I mention tires near the top because a catastrophic tire failure is one of the worst things that happen to you whilst driving.
To find the proper inflation pressure, open the driver's door and look for a plate or sticker. It has the information that you need to inflate them properly. And buy a gauge, the ones at the convenience stores are usually out of calibration because of careless use. The better ones are the dial type, whilst the ones that push out a stick are usually not as reliable. If this is beyond you, go to a reputable shop and have them do it.
By the way, do not fall for the nitrogen sales pitch. It is just that. As a professional scientist, I can assert that there is no benefit for using nitrogen rather than air, with the caveat that, in very cold climates, the moisture in regular compressed air might have a very minor effect.
OK, we are good mechanically now. What about your cargo? I am traveling alone, with some garden delights from the bounty of the summer. However, many of you will have gifts, children, and pets. Please take a minute to secure then. Here is what I mean:
Any loose objects should be restrained to prevent them from becoming missiles in case of a collision. A small, heavy object laying in the back seat can become an incapacitating blow to the head on a sudden stop. Either put them in the trunk, or tie them down well.
Obviously children should be restrained in proper car seats. I will not belabor this point, because if you are not already doing this, you are beyond any words that I can write. However, many folks do not realize that there are pet restraints available. I encourage their use, and not only for the sake of the pet. Having a little pootie climb into your lap whilst you are driving is not safe.
For winter driving, more precautions are needed. I speak from experience, because I had to abort a trip three years ago because of the four inches of ice that accumulated on Interstate 40 in central Tennessee whilst I was driving to Arkansas for Christmas. My 10 hour drive turned into 22, not counting the overnight at a motel that I was fortunate enough to find with a room left for hire.
Take warm blankets and clothing. If you get stranded for any reason, and it is below freezing outside, you will be glad that you did. And keep your fuel tank over half full, since when you run out of fuel you run out of heat. By the way, never run your engine if your vehicle is deep in snow. That puts a block on the exhaust, and can cause carbon monoxide to infiltrate the passenger area. Breathing that will kill you to death. Warm textiles will go a long way towards compensating for this.
Take some nutritious food with you, again to keep up body temperature. Nuts, chocolate, jerky, and other high nutrition (high calorie) foods are good to keep on hand, and do not forget water. For those who need prescription medication, take that as well and keep it in easy reach.
Above all, keep attention and vigilance at hand at all times. The old slogan, "Watch out for the other guy" is as valid as it was decades ago. Please, all of you valued readers, do not become "the other guy".
I hope that this has been valuable. Once again, except for moving accidents, tires are probably the most critical items, since things that are really bad can happen really fast if a tire fails.
I will close by recommending the diary, once again, by our friend The Baculum King. Take his words seriously.
UPDATE: I neglected to mention wiper blades. According to Consumer Reports, they only last about six months due to sun damage and abrasion. Now is a good time to replace them, before you travel.
Safe driving, and, as always,