Driving in Los Angeles traffic can be a challenge every day, and you don’t want to ruin your long Labor Day weekend with an auto accident. The holiday likely will lead to packed highways, and it will pay to be extra vigilant while getting to and from your weekend destinations. Studies of traffic during past Labor Days show that the final big weekend of summer results in thousands of accidents and hundreds of fatalities. Because you want your weekend to be safe and fun, we’ve compiled this list of tips for making sure you – and your car – come out of the holidays unscathed.

Delay a Day

The busiest times on the roads are likely to be Friday evening and Monday later afternoon. If possible, you can avoid traffic by choosing Saturday early morning as your departure time and Tuesday early morning to return. Daytime driving will be the most dangerous, with traffic jams and frustrated drivers eager to reach their vacation spots. Choose non-prime hours for travel, especially if you will be driving a long distance. Remember, everyone is eager to get started on their holiday; patience will be required.

Wear a Seatbelt

Of course, the law dictates that you wear a seatbelt while driving, but that counts for all your passengers as well. Even if you are just going a short distance, or even just across a parking lot, you will have a much lower risk of injury in an accident if you are wearing your seatbelt. Sometimes during vacations, drivers get a little lax about the law, especially in stop-and-go traffic. But it is vital that you and everyone in the vehicle have their belt securely fastened.

Plan Your Route

Getting your travel route planned in advance is one of the best actions you can take for safer and faster driving on Labor Day weekend. Instead of simply plugging an address into your GPS, you can look online for alternate routes that avoid major highways that could be tied up. The online routes might even indicate trouble areas such as construction or closed lanes. The California Department of Transportation operates a number of remote road cameras that you can check for accidents as well as dozens of electronic reader boards on major highways. There are even apps you can get on your smart phone that offer real-time traffic reports for up-to-the-minute driving decisions.

Keep Your Head in the Game

No matter what time of day you are driving, it is crucial that you are giving the road your full attention. After a long weekend of relaxing and possibly drinking, it would make sense that you’d be fatigued. However, distracted or impaired driving is the most likely situation that could lead to an accident. Stay particularly alert when driving near large semi-trucks, and don’t be afraid to pull off the road for a break or meal if you need it. Those few minutes you take could make the difference in getting home safely.

Don’t Be the Hassle

Finally, do what you can to make sure you are not the problem vehicle that is slowing everyone else down. Before heading out for a long drive, get your tires checked and make any pending major repairs to your vehicle. If you know you could get tied up on a highway, get the car fueled up before you hit the onramp. Your car can get overheated if it sits in bumper-to-bumper traffic for a long time with the air conditioning going full blast. Turn the AC off if it looks as though you won’t be going anywhere for a while. If you think you might have a mechanical problem, pull off to the side of the road before you get stuck in the middle of a lane.

Labor Day weekend is a popular time for family travel. Make sure you get to your destination and back again safely by following these tips. Your holiday will turn out much better for it.