WASHINGTON, D. C. (Wednesday, October 21, 2020) –– With the coronavirus pandemic surging, and with the holiday season around the corner, traveling by car may remain a popular option for those intrepid Americans opting to travel through the end of the year. The pandemic remains a very real and serious threat to the health and safety of human life across the nation and the globe. Of necessity, Americans urgently “need to know what do to stay safe while traveling” by car this fall and during the upcoming Thanksgiving and Christmas/New Year’s holidays. If this summer provided any clues, car trips comprised 97% of all travel.

With the calendar and weather changing at warp speed, the remaining days of October, dubbed “Fall Car Care Month,” afford an ideal time for those who choose to travel this season to prep their vehicles ahead of any upcoming road trips. That’s especially true for anyone making year-end holiday travel plans. In all likelihood, they are wondering how to protect their health, and how to safely travel by car. If not, they should.

Given the scale of the pandemic, health officials are urging Americans to take “precautions to curb the spread of COVID-19 over the Thanksgiving holiday period.” It ranks, alongside the preternaturally busy Christmas/New Year’s holiday periods, “among the busiest long-distance travel periods of the year.” Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released long-awaited guidance on holiday gatherings. AAA continues to monitor travel trends and will release its Thanksgiving holiday travel forecast in November.

It is imperative for would-be travelers with fall or year-end holiday travel plans to keep themselves safe during the pandemic and to keep road trip travel plans on track by having a vehicle’s battery, engine and tires checked before embarking on a long trip, caution AAA ASE-certified automotive technicians. In fact, Thanksgiving is six weeks away, and the falling temperatures can be really harsh on car parts, batteries, tires, belts, and hoses. To schedule a free vehicle inspection locally at AAA Car Care Centers without delay.

“The stress and strain of traveling during a pandemic even with the best medical advice, car trouble, and any unforgiving winter weather, can throw a ‘monkey wrench’ in the best-laid travel plans during the upcoming holiday periods. Do everything in your power to safeguard your health and the well-being of others,” said James Moore, AAA Fairfax Car Care Center Manager. “To mitigate the risks, plot every stop, including to gas stations, before setting out; prepare your vehicle; pack protective supplies; avoid traveling to high-risk areas, and drive safely to avoid ending up in hospitals already stretched thin by the pandemic.”

The last thing you need amid a pandemic is breaking down on the side of the road or getting stalled or stranded in a strange location. It is better to be safe than sorry. Despite advances in-vehicle technology, including maintenance reminders and other dashboard alerts designed to mitigate roadside trouble, AAA emergency roadside assistance rescuers responded to 33 million SOS calls for help from members in 2019. 

“Although one in three calls to AAA’s Emergency Roadside Assistance Switchboard and call centers originate safely from the confines of home, most motorists find themselves in dire straits on the roadside, and in urgent need of towing, battery jump starts flat tire service, and fuel delivery,” said Bruce Jenkins, Manager, AAA Northern Virginia Roadside Assistance Fleet Depot. “Motorists are concerned about breakdowns amid coronavirus health concerns. Before you go, realize battery failure is one of the most common incidents requiring emergency roadside assistance. Most car batteries have a 3-to-5 year longevity rate.”

AAA advises these travelers to plan ahead, take precautions, and be responsible as they go. Whenever and wherever they call or need AAA Roadside Assistance, distressed motorists have the comfort of knowing they will be helped by a rescuer wearing fresh gloves and driving a vehicle that has been disinfected after each service call. To keep you and your family safe and to protect its tow truck drivers during the outbreak, the auto club is notifying motorists they will not be allowed to ride inside the towing vehicle to the tow destination.

Before you go, check the CDC COVID-19 tracker and follow the latest health advisories and mandates in every place you plan to visit. Earlier this week, the District Health Department updated its list of high-risk states requiring a 14-day quarantine. Whether they are traveling or not, all vehicle owners in the area are urged to get a pre-road trip vehicle inspection during “Car Care Month.” To keep its members, customers, and staff safe, sound, and healthy during the pandemic, AAA Car Care Centers have developed best practices. When visiting any repair facility, including AAA Car Care Centers or AAA Approved Auto Repair facilities across the region, AAA members and customers should expect the following:

  • Increased cleaning procedures for the facility including disinfecting high touch surfaces every few hours and thorough sanitization of the entire facility daily.
  • Use of a seat cover, floor mat, steering wheel cover, and bag over gearshift by the technician when handling a customer’s vehicle.
  • Schedule their car care appointments online, via phone, text, or email. (For your safety, AAA Car Care Centers and most AAA Approved Auto Repair shops offer online appointment settings).
  • Contactless drop-off and pick-up vehicle procedures to limit interaction including reducing the number of seats in the customer waiting for areas and removing communal beverage centers (coffee, water, etc.).
  • Check out beforehand if the facility is equipped with the technology to safely take your secure payments over the phone or via touchless options such as Apple Pay, PayPal, Google Pay, Venmo, etc.
  • Posted handwashing procedures throughout the facility, advising staff to wash hands between every customer interaction and every time they enter or exit a vehicle.

With confirmed coronavirus cases surging in most states, most folks are uncertain if they will travel at all. Some intrepid travelers have not abandoned their plans. Even if you are staying put for the holidays, take advantage of October Car Care Month events at AAA Car Care facilities. With your safety in mind, AAA is offering special promotions* at its metro area Car Care Insurance and Travel (CCIT) stores. Such includes:

  • FREE Vehicle Health Inspection.
  • Save $40 on repairs.
  • Save $25 on a set of shocks or struts.
  • Save $20 on any fluid flush.
  • Buy 3 Cooper Tires and Get 1 Free on select brands plus a free alignment check.
  • Buy 3 General Tires and Get 1 Free on select brands plus a free alignment check.

*Restrictions apply. See Service Advisor for details.

October Car Care Month ends Friday after next. Don’t get left out in the cold. So schedule your free vehicle checkup in due time. It is as simple as visiting any AAA Car Care Center location across the Washington Metro area, ranging from Laurel, Maryland to Manassas, Virginia, or from Columbia, Maryland to the Seven Corners area of Falls Church, Virginia;  and from Brandywine, Maryland to Fairfax, Virginia.

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