Roadtrips are fun anytime of the year. They get you out of the house and can be a great opportunity to catch up with your travel companions, even if you normally live with them. Meanwhile, you get to play your favorite travel games, indulge in less than nutritious travel snacks and visit friends or family. Unfortunately, driving for extended periods of time can also be quite dangerous, and nearly 50,000 people die each year in car accidents in the USA alone. If you're planning a road trip sometime soon, be sure to follow this essential driving safety trips to ensure you have an enjoyable journey.
Drowsy Driving is Like Drunk Driving
Many drivers don't like to admit this, but most seasoned motorists know it's true: if you're even drowsy behind the wheel you are dozens of times more likely to make a crucial error that could lead to a dangerous accident.
Studies have shown that sleepy drivers can enter brief periods of "microsleep" during which the brain shuts off and cannot receive new data or react to developing road situations. Worst of all, microsleep occurs so quickly that the driver doesn't even realize they are losing consciousness, making the situation all the more perilous.
If you are feeling sleepy, it's always better to pull off the road to a safe place like a rest stop or scenic overlook to take a nap in the car. Don't risk it, even for a few miles. All it takes is one little slip.
It's still possible to make it to your destination in great time so long as you plan ahead, take the appropriate maps or use a voice-guided GPS device to simplify navigation, and build in some buffer time for unexpected slow-downs like congested throughways and unforeseen inclement weather.
Clear the Cabin
This is often overlooked but nevertheless important. Before a long road trip it's a good idea to check underneath the driver's seat and around the gas and brake pedals to ensure there are no errant CD's, soda cans, or giant dust bunnies that could somehow impede the free operation of the controls. Getting a piece of junk stuck under your accelerator pedal is the last thing you want to do on a busy freeway. If it's been a while since you've done a good general clean out of the front seats, it's best done before you hit the road.
Two Sets of Eyes Are Better Than One
A travel companion can do far more for you than help you power through the final verses of "Ninety-Nine bottles of Beer on the Wall". They can spot things you might have missed, like the careless driver that just drifted into your blindspot. Additionally, they can keep an eye on you and monitor your fatigue levels as your journey progresses. Best of all, they can take over for you when you finally get too tired and need to doze off in the passenger's seat. Whenever possible, try to bring a buddy on long road trips.
Check Your Signals
Before pulling out of your home driveway for the long haul, make sure your basic signals are all functioning properly, including both turn indicators and your headlights. Also ensure that your hazard lights are working correctly before you head off. The last time you want to find out they're not working is when you finally need them for once.
Essential Top Offs and Double-Checks
It's always advisable to stop off at a local gas station for a quick pit-stop before you start the road trip in earnest. Safe driving starts with ensuring your vehicle is in good condition and that all replaceable fluids and resources have been checked and topped-off.
Don't skimp on this step or try to save time or money by ignoring low resources. Even re-filled windsheild wiper fluid can mean the difference between being able to quickly clear a dangerous obstruction from your windshield or being stuck behind an unexpected and blinding band of grime, oil or gunk from another driver's unsecured load.
Check your motor oil levels and your tire pressure along with the functionality of all your lights, both interior and exterior. Ensure that your high beams are working correctly and that none of your car's fuses need to be replaced. Finally, clean the front and rear windshields and check to make sure that you have good visibility through all the windows in the car - even the rear seat's windows are important for double-checking blindspots prior to a merge or lane change.
It Should Go Without Saying...
But accidents prove everyday that it needs to be said again. Driving while intoxicated is the best way to endanger your own life, the lives of your passengers, and the lives of all the innocent strangers in the vicinity of your car. It's never worth the risk to drive while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. This inlcudes driving while heavily medicated or while taking a new prescription medication that is unfamiliar to your system. Pharmaceutical drugs have laundry lists of side effects and many commonly prescribed medications have psychoactive effects, which means they can impair your ability to make split-second decisions and react defensively to rapidly changing road conditions.
Distracted Driving is like Drunk Driving, Too.
Practicing safe driving involves keeping your full and uninterrupted attention on the road the entire time your vehicle is in motion. At the speeds we commonly travel in cars and on side streets or major highways, it only takes a second or two for a relatively safe driving situation to turn seriously dangerous. If you happen to take your eyes off the road for a moment to check your e-mail or toy with your cellphone, and it happens to be the same moment that another drive cuts in front of you or an animal, child or piece of debris happens to stray into your path, you will probably have a nasty accident.
Hands-free phone solutions can seriously reduce the risk of accidents while traveling with digital devices, but they cannot remove it entirely. In fact, many safe driving experts point to research that has demonstrated a driver using hands-free technology to have a phone conversation is just as distracted as a driver using one hand to dial and place calls. The fact of the matter is that the human brain can only keep effective levels of attention on so many tasks at once. Adding a smartphone to the mix while you are driving is asking for trouble. This is yet another good reason you should always make long road trips with a travel buddy. When your phone rings you can pass it off to them, or have them place your necessary calls for you.