Tips to keep 2012 holiday travel safe

With rainy weather over the final shopping weekend before Christmas and more storms forecast for Christmas Day, the California Highway Patrol prepared itself for “some of the toughest challenges.”

Officers will continue a maximum enforcement period through 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 25. The CHP also issued a statement to remind travelers to buckle up, adhere to posted speed limits, avoid distractions behind the wheel and not to drive while impaired.

“The winter holidays can pose some of the toughest challenges for our officers,” said CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow, in a press release. “Inclement weather, holiday celebrations and drivers in a hurry to get to their destinations can make for a deadly combination. We want you to enjoy the season and remember that safety is a crucial element.”

While there will be increased patrols on the roadways, motorists can help by calling 911 to report suspected drunk drivers. A maximum enforcement period will also be in effect Dec. 28 at 6:01 p.m. through Jan. 1 at 11:59 p.m.

The California State Automobile Association will be offering its tipsy tow program on Monday from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. on Tuesday and Dec. 31, from 6 p.m. to Jan. 1 at 6 a.m.

On ten different holiday and special events in 2012, the agency offered a free ten-mile tow home for drinking drivers and their vehicles, including those who are not AAA members. It is available in Northern California, Nevada and Utah.

During the period Tipsy Tow is available, drivers, potential passengers, party hosts, bartenders, and restaurant managers can call 800-222-4357 (AAA-HELP) for a free tow home of up to ten miles. They just need to tell the AAA operator they need a “Tipsy Tow,” and a truck will be dispatched. Reservations are not accepted for the service.

The service will provide a one-way ride for the driver and vehicle to the driver’s home. If there are additional passengers who need a ride, they will be taken to the driver’s home as long is there is sufficient room for them to be transported safely in the tow truck.

AAA also offers tip for safe holiday traveling, including:

• Ensure your vehicle is properly maintained. If maintenance is not up to date, have your car and tires inspected before you take a long drive.

• Map your route in advance and be prepared for busy roads during the most popular times of the year. If possible, consider leaving earlier or later to avoid heavy traffic.

• Keep anything of value in the trunk or covered storage area.

• If you’re traveling with children, remind them not to talk to strangers. Go with them on bathroom breaks and give them whistles to be used only if the family gets separated.

• Have roadside assistance contact information on hand, in case an incident occurs on the road.

• In case of an emergency, keep a cell phone and charger with you at all times. AAA and many other companies offer smartphone applications that enable motorists to request help without making a phone call.

• With a little prep, you can leave the road-trip stress at home and enjoy your holiday with family and friends.