By now, many of us are ready for a summer road trip. Maybe you cannot reach your first-choice destination due to COVID-19 travel restrictions. Or maybe you are just taking it slow with a day-trip. Whatever your plan, we hope you can fit in some fun while practicing safety.
First, make sure your vehicle is ready. Check your vehicle’s systems. By taking some time now, you are less likely to breakdown or cause a car accident resulting in injury, motor vehicle damage and stress.
Check for Auto Recalls
Find your Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). Then, check the federal auto recall website, managed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). You can also sign up for email alerts from this page.
Each year, there are millions of auto recalls. Drivers are not always properly informed by manufacturers. Without any warning, drivers keep operating vehicles, increasing the risk for a malfunction. Be pro-active about checking on auto recalls. The thorough database contains recalls up to 15 years back. One caveat is the database does not identify vehicles which were recalled but have now been repaired.
Collect Your Owner’s Manual
Make sure you have your owner’s manual in your glove compartment, along with your motor vehicle registration and auto insurance information.
Have Your Car Serviced
Before you travel:
- Check your vehicle maintenance records
- Schedule a tune-up, oil change or battery check as needed
- Check when your car last had a tire rotation
- Make sure your air conditioning system is properly working as well
If you have any questions, schedule an appointment with a mechanic or garage.
Purchase an auto club membership before you travel. Due to COVID-19, you may not be traveling as far as you wanted this year. You may just be day-tripping to Cape Cod. Still, anytime you travel on the highway, an auto membership is a valuable tool.
The NHTSA advises drivers to stock up on essential supplies before you travel.
- Cell phone and charger
- Nonperishable food, drinking water and medications
- Paper or printed maps (in case you lose cell phone coverage)
- First aid kit
- Flares and a white flag
- Jumper cables
- Tire pressure gauge
- Work gloves and extra clothing
- Extra windshield washer fluid
Checking Inside the Car and Mirrors
Remember to check your seatbelts and car seats to make sure they are properly functioning. If you have a young child, they may have outgrown their car seat over the past few months. Replace car seats right away.
Check your mirrors. Your rearview and sideview mirrors should be securely in place to help you view your surroundings. If you have a back-up camera, make sure it works. If you don’t have a back-up camera and you have time, consider purchasing an add-on camera. Consumer Reports offers tips: “How to Add a Back-up Camera to Your Car.”
Before you travel, check the weather and road conditions along your route. Familiarize yourself with the directions before you go. You may use a global positioning system. But when visiting new places, also consider printing travel maps or writing down notes, such as toll locations and rest stops. Write down key phone numbers, such as for hotels. Gather this in a folder or binder.
Share your travel route with a loved one or friend. Keep an emergency contact’s information available, such as in your wallet or the password lock screen of your phone.
If you are traveling within Massachusetts, you can check traffic conditions on Mass511.com. Cape Cod travelers can check the Cape Cod Commission’s Real-Time Traffic Updates. This contains information about Cape Cod car accidents, road closures and construction projects.
Hands Free Cell Phone Systems
On April 1, 2020, the Massachusetts hands-free driving law took effect. Now, all six New England states ban texting while driving and handheld cell phone use.
What you can do: If you want to use your cell phone, purchase Bluetooth and hands-free driving equipment before you travel. If you cannot GPS through Bluetooth or an in-vehicle system, you can purchase a cell phone mount for your dashboard.
Cell phone-related car accidents often ruin vacations while causing serious injuries. Our best advice is to focus on the road and set your cell phone aside. Enjoy the time with your family or friends. Check your messages at the end of the day.
Children and Heatstroke
Children can suffer heatstroke when left alone in a vehicle. A child’s body temperature rises 3-5 times faster than an adult’s and injuries can happen quickly, according to the NHTSA.
Come up with a family plan for traveling this summer. Never leave your children alone in your car in parking lots, when you visit family and friends or any time you make quick stops. Your car is a powerful piece of machinery. Everyone in and out of the car together. Or if you have two adults, designate one your driver, who stays in your vehicle with your children and the air conditioning. Let the passenger get out and do your errands.
Free Legal Consultation – Boston Car Crash Lawyers
Breakstone, White & Gluck and our Boston car accident attorneys fight for the rights of those injured by negligence and wrongdoing in Massachusetts. Our attorneys represent those injured across Massachusetts, from Boston and Cambridge to the North Shore and Quincy and the South Shore and Cape Cod.
If you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident, learn your legal rights. Consult Breakstone, White & Gluck at 800-379-1244 or 617-723-7676 or use our contact form.
Usually we post blog entries about preventing accidents and safety issues. But here is something that is a serious matter of public health, and we want you to protect yourself!
The incidence of tick-borne illnesses is rising sharply in Massachusetts, in New England, and throughout the country. If not diagnosed and treated promptly, infections can lead to disabling injuries, brain damage, organ failure, and even death. Prompt diagnosis is key, but even more important: Avoiding tick bites.
Understanding tick behavior is the first line of defense. Ticks are active throughout the warm weather months, but even a warm day in February can bring them out. They are most likely to transmit disease in the spring and early summer when they are in their nymph stage (when they are young and smaller). Ticks lurk in leaf litter, tall grass, and on shrubbery, just waiting to hitch a ride on your skin and clothing. Then they wander around until they find a place to bite. They will attach themselves and suck your blood until they are fully engorged. And if they are carrying one of the many bacteria that can make you ill, it will be transmitted during this time.
There are several ways to protect yourself, including wearing insect repellent or clothing treated with permethrin, an effective insecticide that is safe to use. Prevent ticks from getting on your skin by wearing long pants and long shirts, and stay tucked in. Check for ticks after you have been outside. More on this below.
Tick Diseases are on the Rise
It’s unfortunate that we have to think about protecting against ticks. But it’s also necessary. Each summer brings more and more reports of tick-borne illnesses in Massachusetts and across the U.S. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 59,000 tick-borne diseases were reported during 2017 alone, more than 10,000 cases over 2016. More than 42,000 cases were Lyme Disease. According to the CDC, the number of U.S. counties considered at high-risk for Lyme Disease increased by more than 300 percent between 1992 and 2012.
Lyme Disease and Other Tick Diseases in Massachusetts
In Massachusetts, several types of ticks are known to spread infection. These include the black-legged tick, most often known as the deer tick, the dog tick and the lone star tick (Source: Mass.gov).
Black-legged ticks can transmit Lyme disease, anaplasmosis (HGA), babesiosis and other tick-borne illnesses. These are all very serious illnesses which can leave an otherwise healthy person with chronic pain, an irregular heart rhythm and other symptoms. Some of these illnesses can even lead to death.
While we associate ticks with warm weather, black-legged ticks can bite year-round in Massachusetts. The young ticks (called nymphs) are most active during May, June and July. Adult ticks become more active during the spring and fall, but can bite anytime the temperature is above freezing. It’s easy to mistake nymphs for other insects because they are small, about the size of a poppy seed.
When black-legged ticks infect someone with Lyme Disease, the person may suffer fever, chills, headache, fatigue, muscles and joint pain and swollen lymph nodes. About 4 out of 5 people will break out in a rash which is often a bullseye in appearance. In some cases, more serious symptoms emerge, including arthritis, heart palpitations, joint pain, nerve pain and problems with short-term memory.
Adult dog ticks are roughly the size of a watermelon seed and can spread Rocky Mountain spotted fever, which can lead to fever, headache, vomiting and rash in the first 3 to 5 days. Rocky Mountain spotted fever can result in death if left untreated.
Though it’s relatively rare in Massachusetts, dog ticks can also pass on certain types of tularemia, which results in skin sores and swollen glands. As for lone star ticks, it is important to guard against them because they can also cause rash, tularemia and southern tick-associated rash illness (STARI). But lone star ticks are not a significant source of human illness in Massachusetts at this time, according to the state website.
How to Protect Your Family
The best ways to protect yourself from tick bites and tick-borne illnesses is to be aware of potential exposure in the deep woods and tall grass, wear the right insect repellent and continuously check your skin throughout the day and at the end of the day.
- Use EPA-registered insect repellents which contain DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE), para-menthane-diol, or 2-undecanone. Use these products as instructed.
- Use insect repellent products with permethrin to treat clothing, socks, boots and tents. You can also look for products which have been pre-treated with permethrin. Follow the instructions for application carefully. Permethrin is applied to clothing, then allowed to fully dry. It is not meant to be sprayed on just before use. Treated clothing is effective for several washings. The good news is that the ticks that do climb on your treated clothing will die.
- Take extra caution when shopping for insect repellent products for children and those with medical conditions. Again, read product instructions.
- Children younger than 2 months old should never use products containing DEET. The CDC recommends putting babies in strollers covered in mosquito netting.
Understand How Ticks Infect
Ticks can contract bloodborne infections such as Lyme Disease by feeding on infected animals, especially white-footed mice. Then they carry these infections into your backyard and wait for their next prey. This could be you, your children, your guests or your pets.
Unlike other insects, ticks cannot fly or jump. They latch onto tall grass with their back legs, ready to climb on you when you pass by. This is called “questing.”
A black-legged tick can attach to your skin and feed on your blood for several days. Once the tick is done feeding, it will remove itself and find another person or animal to bite.
Avoid tall grass and shrubs, as well as the outer edge of your backyard. Ticks often camp out along well-traveled paths on your property, including near stony landscaping. Wherever you walk or hike this summer, walk in the center of the path.
The sooner you see a tick on your body and remove it, the better. According to the CDC, people who remove ticks within 24 hours can greatly reduce their risk of getting Lyme Disease.
Cats and dogs can bring ticks into your home. Talk to your veterinarian about how to protect your pets during the summer months. There is no evidence showing your pet can pass Lyme Disease onto you, but if your pet is bitten, they could suffer symptoms and you could be bitten as well. Since ticks can be carried into your home, be aware of exposure in your house.
Dressing Safely for the Outdoors
- Dress appropriately. Wear long-sleeves and pants when working in wooded areas. Tuck shirts into pants and pants into boots.
- Consider wearing white and other light colors if it helps you check for ticks easier.
- Another tip is you can use a lint roller on your clothes and shoes before you come inside.
- Take a shower as soon as you come inside. Rinsing ticks off before they bite is very effective.
- Toss your clothes in the dryer on high heat for 10 minutes to kill ticks.
Checking for Ticks and Extra Precautions
- Conduct a full-body tick check once or more daily. Use a hand-held or full-length mirror so you can check your back and other areas of your body. Check along your hairline, inside and behind your ears, the back of your neck, all over your arms and armpits, legs, behind your knees and even between your toes.
- Parents should check children thoroughly for ticks every few hours. Teach children to regularly check their own arms and legs as they play.
- Look closely and remember, ticks are different sizes.
- If you see a tick, carefully remove it from your skin with a pair of tweezers. Pull it out with a steady hand so you remove it all at once. Then clean your skin with rubbing alcohol or soap and water.
- You should dispose of a tick just as you would anything else that’s poisonous. Place it in a sealed plastic bag or flush it down the toilet. If you are concerned that the tick was on you long enough to bite, you can seal the tick in a plastic bag for later testing.
Visit Your Physician and Get Prompt Treatment
There is a high risk for Lyme Disease in Massachusetts and other New England states. If you, your child or another family member were bitten by a tick, contact your physician immediately. Even if you don’t believe you are experiencing any symptoms, this is an important call to make. Your physician is knowledgeable about your medical background and the medications you are on and is in the best position to help you understand if you may need to take an antibiotic. If exposure to Lyme disease is considered a probability, your physician will likely prescribe a single dose of doxycycline as a prophylactic measure. It is very important to monitor yourself for symptoms of potential infection, including rash, headache, muscle or joint ache, or fever. If you are suspicious, seek prompt treatment to avoid more serious complications.
Use Reasonable Care and Good Sense
Don’t let the fear of ticks or other insects ruin a perfectly good summer. Use reasonable care and good sense, and you and your family should enjoy great outdoor fun.