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Make sure your vehicle is road ready before Summer travels

ANNAPOLIS, Md.  – It’s a scary place to wind up – in a travel lane of a major, high-speed interstate, broken down. Vehicle breakdowns not only put drivers and their passengers in a dangerous position, they also cause major congestion and a likelihood of a secondary crash. The Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration (MDOT SHA) is reminding would-be travelers to check their vehicle closely before hitting the long, hot highway.

MDOT SHA’s CHART (Coordinated Highway Action Response Team) is on the road 24/7 and, on average, responds to an incident (crash of disabled vehicle) every 7.5 minutes. CHART patrols are critical in preventing secondary crashes and major congestion. When a lane is closed during peak hours when the highway is at capacity, for every minute a lane is closed, it takes four minutes to clear the backup. Additionally, the chance of a secondary crash increases by 2.8 percent, so if a lane is blocked for 36 minutes, a secondary crash is likely.

“Disabled vehicles due to mechanical breakdowns are often preventable by checking simply checking vehicle operating systems before venturing out,” said MDOT SHA Director of CHART Joey Sagal. “The five-minute walk-around can provide travelers extra assurance that they will get to their destination free of a breakdown.”

MDOT SHA suggests starting from the ground up for visual inspections. Look over tires to ensure that there are no signs of damage or excessive wear and that the tread is adequate, and the tire inflation is at the manufacturer’s recommended limits.

Another common culprit in highway breakdowns, especially in hot summer months, is a vehicle’s cooling system. The night before a road trip, motorists are encouraged to put a piece of cardboard under the radiator and coolant hoses. The following morning check the cardboard to determine if there are any coolant leaks. Visually inspect cooling hoses through the engine compartment.  Look for weak spots or any drip of coolant flowing from the connection to the radiator.  Feel the hose to make sure it is firm and not spongy. A coolant system breakdown can lead to very extensive and expensive engine damage.

Other areas to examine before a long drive are headlights, taillights and turn signals, battery, belts and brake systems. Finally, make sure all fluids in the vehicle are at the proper manufactured recommended levels and that you have plenty of gas in the vehicle.

A properly maintained vehicle can also save you money. Keeping your tires properly inflated translates into a free tank of gas a year and, according to the US Department of Energy, replacing a clogged air filter can increase your mileage by 10 percent. Tightening gas caps can save as much as 30 gallons of gasoline which could be lost annually to evaporation.

In the event of a vehicle breakdown, motorists are encouraged to get as far off the travel lanes as possible and be extremely mindful of adjacent traffic. Maryland State Police can be reached by dialing #77.

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