Gas prices are rising again and airfare deals abound. But in spite of those realities, Americans will embark on millions of motor vehicle road trips this summer. These asphalt journeys may cover 2000, 5000, or even 7000 miles, where all-day, every-day seat duty is required. Covering that much ground involves a lot of traffic exposure and completing the task successfully necessitates preparedness.
Since tire failure is the number one highway breakdown, one needs good rubber beneath them. It’s imperative to have an engine that will run all day at 75 mph too, so it’s advised to have fresh oil, good spark plugs, hoses that are unlikely to burst, and accessory drive belts with little-to-no evident wear. Even more so, drivers must be up to the task.
Since these long hauls are not frequent, it’s important to mentally “gear up” for them. Much of our driving takes place locally, with an overall speed average of around 20 mph. Spending the whole day at 70 mph plus is out of our normal practice zone.
Part of the preparedness is akin to a contractor estimating a job. To make a profit, the estimator must adequately derive the time needed to complete the job, but his is not always a straightforward process of adding up necessary building supplies and man-hours. For real-world accuracy, he must anticipate potential variables such as workforce problems or changes in material costs.
Likewise, dividing miles by speed is only a basis to which good drivers add time for real-world eventualities. Good trip planning allows for meals, gas stops and delays due to weather, traffic, construction and accidents. Don’t try to drive 750 miles per day, unless you are truly willing to undergo a serious day of driving. To cover that distance, you will need to be on the road 11-12 hours, and be fairly efficient. Gas stops must be purposeful and quick. Such a schedule allows for few “hiccups.”
Don’t underestimate the reality of covering 750-800 miles per day, and don’t try it with too-little sleep. If you like a more leisurely pace with sightseeing stops, 400-mile days make more sense. If you don’t like to spend the whole day driving, your goal may be only 250 miles. The key is to preplan a realistic, doable schedule.
Conditioned by driving in town, many drivers fail to look far enough ahead while freeway driving. Obviously events happen more quickly at 70 mph than at 30 mph, so one must adjust driving habits accordingly. Continuously scan, using forward vision, peripheral vision and mirrors. Identify vehicles around you and regularly track their actions. Try to obtain a driving “niche” with space on all sides.
After hours on the road, anyone can succumb to weariness. I’ve heard lots of “remedies” to stay awake, from slapping your face, to sniffing ammonia, to sticking you head out of the window. I don’t recommend any of those, but rather prefer to pull off the road and close my eyes, which brings relief in 15-20 minutes. Whatever your remedy, please don’t continue to drive when your eyelids are getting heavy.
If an emergency occurs, never initiate a swerve or overcorrect too harshly. Also, don’t carry too much speed in turns or exit ramps. After hours of rolling along on cruise control, drivers are often unready to react properly to sudden turns or stops.
Be prepared for safe summer travel by thinking ahead!
Readers may contact Bill Love via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.