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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Autos

Tips for trips

Soon, many of us will head out on a summer road trip.  After a year of travel restriction, lengthy auto travel will flourish.  With big mileage goals, full-day seat duty is a requisite for decent daily progress and achieving all-day success on the roadways necessitates preparedness.

For starters, one needs a vehicle capable of the journey.  Good rubber (tire failure is the number one highway breakdown), a drive train ready to run for hours at 75-80 mph, hoses that won’t burst and belts that won’t snap are all important.  But the driver must be up to the task too.

I generally make only one huge drive per year.  Since it’s not habitual, I like to “gear up” for embarkation.  Most of the year, our driving time is spent in stop-and-go local driving with an overall speed average of around 20 mph.  Spending the whole day at 70 mph-plus is out of our normal practice zone, so here are some preparation tips for road trips and common errors to avoid.

Mental and physical preparedness

Besides being well rested and physically able, a driver about to take a long trip must be mentally ready.  That means knowing your route and estimating your time.  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.  A quick gas stop is the only one you will have time for — and that will have to be purposeful and quick.

There is nothing wrong with covering that distance in a day, but if you are going to do it, don’t underestimate the task, or attempt it with 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 daily goal may be only 250 miles.  Set realistic expectations based on the math.

Not scanning or looking far enough ahead

Since we are mainly accustomed to lower speeds, we may not adjust properly to freeway speeds until we are in trouble.  Obviously events happen more quickly at 70 mph than at 30 mph, so we must adjust our driving habits accordingly.

One must continuously scan, using forward vision, peripheral vision and mirrors.  Identify vehicles around you, and regularly track their appearance, actions and disappearance.  Try to obtain a driving “niche” with proper space all around you.

Since traffic is moving rapidly on the freeways, be sure to look ahead as far as you can for things you may need to react to.   Not only do things happen suddenly, but also hours of trouble free driving can set up complacency, when one is unready for emergencies.

Not accepting fatigue

Too many drivers fail to give fatigue the attention it deserves.  Being well rested before the drive is the best defense.  Still, after hours on the road, anyone can succumb to weariness.  I’ve heard lots of “remedies”, from slapping your face, to singing, to sticking you head out of the window. 

I don’t recommend any of those, but rather prefer the old fashioned method of pulling off the road, and closing my eyes for proper relief.  If I don’t wish to kill my progress with a nap, I will stop and take a brief walk to awaken my senses.

However you handle it, don’t continue down the highway when your eyelids are getting heavy.

Overdriving

This is a mistake that even seasoned drivers can make.  Things are going along smoothly until an emergency occurs — then the driver overreacts to it.

This may be avoiding an animal in our path, or reacting to a blown tire.  Guarded use of the steering and brakes at freeway speeds is essential.  Generally, gradual deceleration, and minor steering input will work better than harsh attempts at maneuvering in emergency situations.

Over-correction is a leading cause of single-vehicle rollover accidents.

Readers may contact Bill Love via e-mail at precisiondriving@spokesman.com.