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Reduce Stress Behind the Wheel

Tips for De-stressing Your Trips

Kids can be a major source of stress on the road, with cries of "I'm hungry!" "He's on my side of the seat!" and "Are we there yet?" A portable entertainment system, like the Audiovox VBP2000, can keep kids occupied while drivers focus. A portable entertainment system also can be moved from vehicle to vehicle, and it even works in hotel rooms, at tailgate parties and on camping trips.

"Everybody seems to be running short on time these days, so people are often in a big hurry when they get behind the wheel," says Sue Elliott-Sink, director of content for enjoythedrive.com, the consumer website from the Specialty Equipment Market Association. "When you add in all the normal stresses of driving-like traffic, bad directions, even the sun in your eyes-people can wind up being nervous wrecks by the time they reach their destination."

That's why enjoythedrive.com has put together simple tips to help drivers turn their vehicle into a sanctuary of sorts and help reduce stress on the road.

Allow some extra time. Running late is one of the primary reasons people speed-and a major cause of increased blood pressure on the road today. Because traffic, car crashes, detours and other surprises can cause any trip to take longer than planned, one of the best ways to make driving less stressful is to allow plenty of time to reach a destination.

Make that vehicle a sanctuary. Everyone has the occasional rough day, but it is possible for people to leave business and personal cares behind once they slide behind the wheel. The key is to create an inviting, relaxing environment. For instance, an in-seat massage unit can help relieve sore muscles after a tough day at the office or at the gym.

"Music also helps soothe frayed nerves after a rough day, but static as a radio station fades in and out along a route can be mighty irritating," says enjoythedrive.com. "The new satellite radio receivers solve this problem, offering access to the same programs all across the country. A CD changer also provides hours of soothing tunes, and sun visor CD organizers keep a change of disks close at hand. Even something as simple as changing into driving shoes or donning driving gloves can signal that it's time to shift gears and leave work or personal problems behind."

Stay cool. Getting into a scorching hot vehicle is enough to make any driver miserable, but there's really no need to get all hot under the collar. A remote starter will cool off a car or truck before it's time to get in, so makeup doesn't melt and clothes don't get soiled with perspiration. That remote starter comes in handy on bitter cold days, too.

Protect the interior. Spills happen, and mud or gum is eventually going to find its way inside any vehicle. Waterproof and spill-proof seat covers and floor liners allow parents, sports enthusiasts and everyone else who gets messy to stop worrying about their vehicle's interior while they're driving.

Clear up clutter. Map books, CDs, purses and all the other stuff that accumulates in a vehicle often go rolling around every time a driver turns or steps on the gas or brakes. "Not only are these items distracting, but they can turn into projectiles in the event of a crash," says enjoythedrive.com. "That's why it's so important to stash things inside a trunk organizer or cargo area organizer, or in a center console."

Keep kids occupied. Bored and testy children not only increase stress levels while driving, they also make it difficult for adults to keep their eyes and attention on the road. Having books and games handy-or having an entertainment system on-board-will keep kids occupied and allow drivers to focus on the task at hand.

Light up the road. Night driving can be especially tiring and stressful. Perhaps that's why car crashes are more likely to be fatal after dark. According to enjoythedrive.com, "To make nighttime outings easier, people can add a set of driving lights to their vehicle. These auxiliary lights provide a broader and longer beam, so they illuminate the road further ahead and illuminate the shoulder more than standard headlights." This gives drivers more time to react to obstacles on the road.

Get rid of blind spots. Changing lanes in heavy traffic can be stressful,too. A set of wide-angle mirrors can help drivers eliminate blind spots, making lane changes less of a neck-craning experience. Plus, outside mirrors with built-in turn signals will alert vehicles in those blind spots to an impending lane change.

Stop staring into the sun. Driving into the sun can be exhausting and dangerous, especially when the sun drops below the level of a vehicle's sun visors. Adding smoked plastic sun visor extenders can make it much easier for drivers to keep their eyes on the road during morning and evening commutes.

Keep snacks on hand. "Hunger can make many people irritable," notes enjoythedrive.com. "Instead of driving around with a bad attitude, they can keep snacks on-board. A small refrigerator that plugs into a power point or cigarette lighter makes it easy to keep healthy food and drinks fresh." It's especially convenient for parents and business people who spend a lot of time on the road and would rather avoid fast food establishments.

Avoid traffic jams. What could be more aggravating than getting stuck in an unexpected traffic jam? Fortunately, drivers can now get up-to-the-minute traffic information in their vehicle, so they can steer clear of snarls.

Don't get lost. Getting bad directions and getting lost are hugely stressful, yet very common, experiences. Having a navigation system on-board makes it easy to avoid the stress and locate virtually any destination, and most systems instantly adjust the directions in case of a detour. Some also include information on "points of interest," ranging from the nearest gas station or family restaurant to the nearest golf course.

Don't dread backing up. "It's tough to see out the back of many vehicles on the road today," adds enjoythedrive.com, "so it's no surprise that driving in reverse can be especially stressful, whether someone is parallel parking, trying to get out of a busy parking lot or negotiating down a narrow driveway. A backup warning system can make all of these maneuvers easier. It provides an audible warning that lets drivers know the rear of the vehicle is approaching an obstacle."

(Source: Car Care Council)

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