Difference between dream vacation, disaster: tips for safe summer travel

ROYAL AIR FORCE LAKENHEATH, England -- As members of the 48th Fighter Wing, we have the unique opportunity to travel to many great destinations throughout Europe.

For many of us, the Critical Days of Summer is the unofficial start of the travel season and several Airmen and their families have already started planning trips both around and outside the local area.

While the 48th FW Safety Office never has a shortage of safety discussions, this time of the year one of the most commonly heard topics around the office is travel safety.

Ensuring Liberty Airmen travel in a safe and smart manner is always a major concern for the safety office. In line with our mission and personal risk management training, preparation is key to safe traveling. Some travel will require several levels of preparation while others may not.

When traveling, your mode of transportation must remain a matter of priority. There are different modes of travel to consider: personal conveyance, commercial travel and local public transportation. Each offers their own unique set of concerns.

If you plan to use personal transportation, be certain your vehicle is ready for the road and you are aware of the driving laws are in each country. The European Union has the traffic rules available for its countries at http://ec.europa.eu/transport/road_safety/glance/index_en.htm.

The safety office recommends scheduling your vehicle for a maintenance check before leaving on a long road trip. Any major repairs to the vehicle should be completed prior to any extended journeys.

It's also recommended that you inspect your vehicle a day or two prior to traveling. I'm sure you and your family would not find it amusing to be stuck on the side of a highway several hundred miles from home due to an issue that could have been easily averted by a simple maintenance check. A thorough assessment of your vehicle could eliminate potential hazards that might ruin your vacation.

Before driving long distances, it's imperative that you get adequate rest. While driving, the British Highway Code recommends at least two breaks for every 200 miles of travel. By driving while fatigued, you are certainly courting disaster.

Additionally, it is always useful to have an idea of the weather forecast while on a road trip. A simple glance at the weather report for the area you're traveling in could save you hours of lost travel time.

Although local authorities have many safety measures in place on commercial and public transportation, remember to never let your guard down. Ensure your chain of command is aware of your travel plans and keep a list of important contact numbers in case of emergency.

While overseas, do you know the emergency number to call the police or other emergency services? Most countries in mainland Europe use 112 while the U.K. uses 999. Find out what the emergency numbers are in the country you're visiting prior to travel.

Before leaving, travelers should be knowledgeable about the locations they are visiting. Visit http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis_pa_tw_1168.html for worldwide travel warnings and information or http://europa.eu/travel/gettingthere/index_en.htm for more information about traveling in Europe.

So whether it's a trip around jolly ol' England, sunny Spain or any other destination, by planning ahead and applying sound risk management techniques, you can help your family and friends enjoy a wonderful summer and possibly the trip of a lifetime.