Personal Reflections on Vanlife Priority #1: Safety

By Kerman Delaiso

Whether it’s just you, yourself and a partner, a family, or a group of you preparing for van life road trips, safety should be at the very top of your list.

I’m Kerman Delaiso. I’ve been living in my car and Ram ProMaster van for over a year and nine months. During the pandemic, I’ve done road trips to the east coast in the winter and headed south in the summer and fall months.
Before I head out, I always make sure to take these safety measures and planning steps.

  • Schedule a full vehicle inspection at a local dealership or car service.
  • Make sure you do a full walkthrough with the mechanic and/or on your own: get an oil change, check the tire pressure, check the battery health, check headlights and taillights, etc.
  • Optional: (I purchased a vehicle service package through Chrysler). This vehicle service package gives me peace of mind as I know that I can bring in my van anywhere in North America for service.
  • Make sure your vehicle’s registration and insurance are both up to date. Make paper copies and download to devices for backup.

Steps for Planning Travel

  • Plan your route, time, gas and mileage.
  • Discuss your travel plans with someone you trust that will respond immediately If needed in an emergency, and leave an extra key or remote key to your vehicle with that person.
  • Firstly, I look up my route on Google Maps. I try to find the routes with lower mileage rather than those with the fastest time. I’d rather give up time and save on mileage since I often drive cross-country, back and forth to different states and cities. This saves on money overall, despite sacrificing some time.
  • Google Maps provides many options, though, and sometimes taking the fastest route is necessary.

Knowing When & How To Fill Up On Gas

  • Most of the time I drive until my tank is nearly empty (don’t judge me lol!). This is totally my personal preference. I do recommend, however, driving to the quarter tank mark or traveling to a half tank. You just never know when you’ll have to be at a gas station alone and late at night. Plus, this is the safest way to ensure you’ll never fully run out of gas.
  • Download your map route(s) for offline use, just in case you end up driving through dead zone areas.
  • For buying gas, I used my Navy credit card to get double points back. I recommend you find a card (credit or debit) that gives you the best rewards on gas.
  • I use the apps GetUpside and Gasbuddy to help me easily find the cheapest gas. More info can be found about these apps and how to get the most out of them in the Essential Apps section of this guide!

Items You Should ALWAYS Have In Your Vehicle

  • Fire extinguisher
  • Carbon Monoxide (CO) detector
  • Smoke detector (try to get one that’s not too sensitive)
  • Roadside emergency lights
  • Portable tire pump
  • Battery charger or jumping cables

Optional Items for Personal Safety

(Note: possessing any of these items is completely your own, individual choice.)

  • Fire extinguisher
  • Carbon Monoxide (CO) detector
  • Smoke detector (try to get one that’s not too sensitive)
  • Roadside emergency lights
  • Portable tire pump
  • Battery charger or jumping cables

Dealing With Authority: KNOW YOUR RIGHTS

When you’re pulled over or you see another vanlifer stopped on the road:

  • Firstly, be sure to always follow ALL State and City speed limits.
  • Read signs, look out for road construction work, breakdowns and accidents (GPS systems tend to work great to provide traffic information and warn about upcoming crashes or construction).
  • If you get pulled over, remain calm for your safety as well as the officer’s.
  • Have all of your vehicle information in one place. Listen with careful attention to best understand what the officer is asking.
  • Know your rights. YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO REMAIN SILENT. However, a simple speedy ticket has the potential to lead to a world of pain.
  • If you were speeding, take the ticket with a smile, and fight your concerns, if you have any, in court.
  • If you’re pulled over and you’re alone, call someone so they can listen in on what’s happening as well as know your location. (If you have a lawyer in your family or friend circle, they would be a great first call option).
  • Use a dash camera (optional).
  • Probable Cause is a term officers use to search vehicles during traffic stops. Another way of doing this is asking you if they can “search your vehicle”. This is tricky. Never allow anyone to search your vehicle without a search warrant.

My Final Thoughts

Traveling on the road, one will meet many like minded vanlifers and road travelers at gas stations, truck stops, rest areas, campgrounds and other popular travel stops. Always try to introduce yourself! Being loving and friendly may lead to a road buddy or someone giving you advice on where to go, sweet local spots, and vice versa; you might have some gems of knowledge for them in return and really make their day. Sometimes meeting a fellow vanlifer can even lead to traveling together and forming a caravan: the more rigs, the safer you all will be.

Find Kerman on Instagram @thajourneyofkdelaiso, and support his photography business @oddusee_photographer and All photos courtesy of Kerman Delaiso/Oddusee Photography.

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