Ready to head off on an epic road trip in the near future? We know you are excited, as we enjoy a cross-country jaunt as much as the next traveller. However, there are safety concerns which you need to be aware of before leaving your hometown.
After all, nothing kills the buzz quite like a car breakdown, an accident, or the occurrence of a situation that was completely preventable if you had only taken a few minutes to think things through before leaving home.
In this guide, we’ll run down several things you need to keep in mind when planning a road trip, and while you are enjoying one.
Road Trip Safety: Things You Need To Know
#1 Get Insurance Before Renting Your Vehicle
This isn’t an issue that vehicle owners have to think about, as they are required to have insurance in place to legally operate their vehicles. However, not every possessor of a driver’s license owns a car – in our increasingly urbanized society, there are more people than ever who have chosen to go car-less in order to save money.
Yet, when they require transportation to places not easily reached by public transit (such as destinations on many popular road trip routes), they rent vehicles. Before they can roll off the lot, they need to purchase insurance, but these policies can be rather pricey.
Avoid shelling out too much money by going online to find a cheaper car renters insurance from a trusted source. Once you do, you’ll have the coverage that will protect you from legal consequences and financial ruin should you get into a motor vehicle accident.
#2 Assemble an Emergency Kit
It’s not a subject many of us like to think about when preparing for something as fun as a road trip, but sometimes, accidents happen. When they do, being ready can make the difference between the best and the worst possible outcome.
Before you head out in search of adventure, put together a bag which contains items like jumper cables (with instructions on how to use them safely), a first aid kit, an emergency blanket, non-perishable foods like granola bars, a flashlight, matches, and other supplies useful in an emergency.
Even if you don’t get into an accident yourself, you may happen upon one where your intervention could make the difference between life or death.
#3 Pay Attention to the Road
On a road trip, the mood in the car is often light – friends banter and make jokes as everyone heads off on a well-deserved holiday. However, if you are the driver, all it takes is one moment of inattention to turn a dream vacation into an unmitigated nightmare.
Animals can run onto the roadway in a matter of seconds, especially around dawn or dusk. Aggressive passers on two-lane roads can put you on track for a head-on collision if you don’t have time to react. Failing to look before turning at a traffic light could lead to you hitting a pedestrian you didn’t ‘see’.
Refrain from actively socializing in the car until it is someone else’s turn to drive – when you are behind the wheel, you are responsible for the lives of everyone in your vehicle, so act like it.
#4 Stop at Regular Intervals
While it is vital to maintain attention while behind the wheel on a road trip, this becomes increasingly difficult as the hours roll by. Nip this problem in the bud by stopping as regularly as once every 2-3 hours.
Besides, if you are shouldering most or all of the driving burden, road trips are no fun if you have zero opportunity to socialize with your friends or family.
Stopping regularly at scenic points of interest, in small towns, and other random locales apart from gas, food, or lodging stops will give you a chance to not only stretch your legs and rest but also have some fun – it’s your road trip too, after all.
#5 Keep an Eye on the Weather Forecast
On multi-day, cross-country road trips, the weather not only plays a role in the activities you pursue, it can pose risks of which you need to be aware. In the American Southwest, temperatures can soar into the 110’s and 120’s, which can push your vehicle’s oil and coolant systems to the breaking point.
In high mountain passes on cooler days, snow can fall even in the middle of summer. Across the nation, but especially in the Midwest and Great Plains, the clashing of cool/dry and hot/humid air masses provide the perfect conditions for the formation of severe thunderstorms.
When it’s hot out, monitor the temperature of your engine, and take regular breaks to allow your car to cool down. If the white stuff starts falling during a summer road trip, drive defensively and consider stopping for the day to give the snow that has fallen a chance to quickly melt. When dark green clouds form and thunder rumbles, pull off the highway, tune into local radio stations, and take cover indoors if severe weather threatens.
It’s often best to play it safe rather than have Mother Nature teach you a lesson when she is at her angriest.
#6 Limit Driving to Eight Hours per Day (or Take Shifts)
Despite all the breaks you’ll take throughout the day, the fatigue of sitting in the driver’s seat for hours on end will add up over time. If you are the sole driver on a long distance road trip, we recommend spending eight total hours on the road (not including breaks) per day.
Anything longer, especially after darkness falls, can result in deficits of attention which can increase the probability of an incident occurring. If you want or need to be on the road continuously to reach a destination, have at least one other licensed driver in the vehicle.
This will allow you to take shifts – after spending eight hours behind the wheel, a fresh set of eyes takes over as you get your beauty rest. This way, you’ll get to that music festival halfway across the country in record time without taking unnecessary safety risks.
When was the last time your took a road trip? How long did you spend in the car?
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