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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Road trip tips

After a year or so of restriction, a record number of us will embark on road trips.  Round trips of 1000-5000 miles will be common and successful completion of such trips requires preparedness.

First, you need a proper vehicle.  Good rubber (tire failure is the number one highway breakdown), an engine will run all day at 75 mph, hoses that won’t burst and belts that won’t break are all important.  Next, the driver must be up to the task.

Long trips are infrequent, so it’s important to “gear up” for them.  Much of our driving is spent in stop-and-go local traffic, with an overall speed average of around 20 mph.  Spending the whole day at 70 mph plus is out of our normal zone.

My thoughts on preparation for road trips and potential foibles during them:

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 gas stop is the only one you will have time for, and that will have to be quick.

It’s quite feasible to cover that distance in a day, but 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 goal may be only 250 miles. 

Look far enough ahead

Failure to look far down the road is a common factor in freeway collisions.  We are mainly “tuned in” to lower speeds and may not adjust properly to freeway speeds until we are in trouble.  Events occur more quickly at 70 mph than at 30 mph, so we must adjust our vigilance accordingly.

Continuously scan, using forward vision, peripheral vision, and mirrors.  Identify vehicles around you, and regularly track their location and actions. Maintain a driving “niche” with space all around you.  Look ahead as far as you can for things you may need to react to.  Hours of trouble free driving can also set up complacency with unreadiness for emergencies.

Recognize fatigue

Drivers often fail to give fatigue the attention it deserves.  There are many ways to deal with it, and being well rested before the drive is the best.  Still, after hours on the road, anyone can succumb to weariness.  I’ve heard lots of “remedies”, from slapping your face, to sticking your head out of the window.  I don’t recommend any of those, but rather prefer to pull off the road and close my eyes for proper relief.  If I don’t take that brief nap, I may stop and take a walk to awaken my senses.

Overdriving

This is a mistake that even seasoned race drivers make — all is well until an emergency occurs and the driver overreacts to it.

This may be avoiding an animal in our path or reacting to a blown tire.  Gentle input 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.

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