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Safety Tips When Renting a Vehicle!

The car to watch is the car in front of the car in back of you!

Renting a car? Yeah, you're probably thinking, "No big deal." And you're probably right. But a little preparation wouldn't hurt and might keep you from denting the thing you're renting! 

Familiarize yourself - Chances are good you won't be as familiar with your rented car as you are with the car that you normally drive. So, spend a few minutes getting acquainted.

  • Take a look at the dashboard. Note the location of the speedometer, the temperature gauge, the gas gauge, and so on.
  • Locate the air conditioner, heater, windshield wiper, windshield washer, defroster, and light switches. Turn them on and off to make sure that you know how they work. Besides you probably don't want to look silly thinking you're activating your turn signal and the windshield wipers start swishing.
  • Test the brakes - with the engine running - to get the "feel" of them. Some brakes are "softer" than others and you don't want to discover this when you're stopping for the first red light. At the same time get the "feel of the wheel" by testing the "play" in the steering wheel. And make sure the emergency brake works.

Do all this BEFORE you take your vehicle out in traffic. That way, you won't have to take your mind off the road while you're driving - a serious safety hazard for sure!

Check it out - It's a good idea to briefly inspect the car you rent to make sure that everything's in good working order:

  • Check the tires for proper inflation. Under-inflated or over-inflated tires can greatly affect your safety, especially at high speeds.
  • Check the headlights. Know where the switch is even if you'll only be driving during daylight hours - you might suddenly find yourself driving through a tunnel.
  • Check the turn signals, windshield wipers, and horn for any operating problems.
  • Check the trunk. It should have a spare tire and a jack in it. Inquire about the availability of an emergency road kit if you’re interested in extra protection, or provide your own.
  • Check out the need for any special equipment - chains for driving on ice or heavy snow, for instance. If you have children below the age of four with you, request child restraint seats for them or provide your own. Make sure that you have everything you need before you leave the rental lot.
  • Check for any scratches or dents and report them to the rental agency before you leave the premises. Although these will probably not affect the car's performance, you do not want to be held responsible for them when you return the automobile.

Some things are "more different" than others - The differences between the rented car and the car you own may be more significant - than simply the layout of the dashboard or the positioning of the gear shift. Following are some examples:

If you're used to driving an automatic and the rented car is a stickshift - or vice-versa, it's important to reacquaint yourself with handling the new transmission before you begin driving.

Power steering and power brakes require a lighter touch. If you're not used to driving with them, you may want to get a "feel" for them before moving into heavy traffic.

You may be used to a big car and the extra power that it affords you. Or you may be used to squeezing your little compact into the smallest of parking spaces. In any case, if your rental car is significantly larger or smaller than the car you usually drive, be aware of its limitations.

If you're concerned about the differences between the car you rent and the car you own, you might want to request a rental that is similar to the make and model of your own automobile. Most rental agencies will be happy to oblige if they carry that model.

Now it's time to customize the rented car to your personal driving habits:

  • Adjust the driver's seat so that you feel comfortable and at ease behind the wheel.
  • Adjust the headrest so it is level with the top of your ears.
  • Adjust the rearview and sideview mirrors so that they're in the right positions for you.
  • Adjust the seat belt so that it fits snugly and comfortably. At the same time, be sure that you know how to release it.

Getting the hang of it - Take the rented car for a simple trial run, especially before you head for the freeways or a crowded downtown area. You may be more comfortable if you drive across the parking lot once or twice, or around the block, to become even more familiar with it.

If you've got any questions or if the car isn't performing up to par, go back to the rental agency immediately.

Some things never change - Whether it's a rented car, a friend's car, or your very own automobile, there are some rules of thumb that always apply:

  • Drinking and driving never mix. (Alcohol is the largest contributing factor in fatal motor vehicle accidents.)
  • Always buckle up for safety! Use seat belts or shoulder harnesses at all times. And use the proper child safety restraint whenever you transport a child.
  • Drive defensively. This means be alert and be prepared for anything that may happen on the road.

In case of emergency - Be prepared to deal with an accident or another emergency situation while you're on the road:

  • Review your insurance options with the clerk when you sign out the car. Know what your personal insurance will cover, and use that information to determine what additional coverage, if any, you may need to purchase.
  • Be aware of the rental agency's emergency road service provisions. If they have no specific road service available, inquire as to whom you can contact in the event of an overheated engine, a tire blowout, or similar emergency situations.

The road to car rental success - Now that you're prepared you can reap the maximum enjoyment from your rental car. So buckle up and drive safely!

The car to watch is the car in front of the car in back of you!