Any time you’re driving, whether you’re on a road trip or not, you face certain risks. For example, you may be sharing the road with semi-trucks. Semi-trucks weigh tens of thousands of pounds, and a collision with one often ends in fatalities. That’s why it’s important to always use defensive driving strategies when you’re on the road, whether it’s for a short or long time. You should never drive while distracted, either. Beyond being mindful of trucks and avoiding defensive driving, the following are things to know about the biggest risks you could face on a road trip.
Going alone is inherently one of the biggest risks of a road trip. When you go alone, you might think it’s exciting, but there are plenty of reasons it’s not the safest option.
First, there’s general safety in numbers, but there’s more to it than that.
For example, having someone go on your trip with you can help you stay alert when you’re behind the wheel for longer periods, and you also have someone to switch off with when you can’t stay awake anymore.
Having at least one passenger can help you avoid distracted driving too. They can find directions for you, handle the radio and help you with your phone while you’re behind the wheel.
There are a lot of advantages to having someone go with you, and a lot of risks of not doing so.
With that being said, passengers aren’t always a good thing. If you have kids who will be traveling with you, try to plan ahead to keep them entertained, so they don’t become a dangerous distraction.
Falling Asleep At The Wheel
This was touched on a bit above, but it’s undoubtedly one of the single biggest risks of a road trip.
If you’re even slightly fatigued, it’s going to significantly impact your driving ability. In fact, driving while fatigued has been shown to affect driving and reaction time as much as driving under the influence of substances like alcohol.
If no one can take over the driving for you, stay hydrated, get plenty of sleep before you hit the road, and take a break every two hours. If you stop for just a few minutes to stretch and get fresh air, it’ll help combat fatigue.
If you feel too tired at any time, pull over. It’s not worth the risk to keep going.
Problems with Visibility
If you’re driving in poor weather conditions or you’re in the mountains and it’s foggy, it’s incredibly risky.
The best way to avoid this risk is to check the weather before you drive anywhere.
If you do run into fog and you couldn’t avoid it, you should slow down and use your fog lights if you have them.
If the fog is too bad to the point that your visibility is significantly impacted, stop and let it clear up before you go on.
If you’re taking a road trip, some stretches of roadway are known as being more dangerous than others.
For example, Interstate 10 in Arizona is often considered among those.
Interstate 10 connects Phoenix to California, and while the road is only 150 miles, it made up 10% of all Arizona traffic deaths a few years ago.
The reason it’s so dangerous?
The wrecks are attributed to the long stretches of desert roadway that lead to high speeds, inattention, and illegal passing.
Another one of America’s most dangerous roadways is Highway 550 in Colorado. It’s a high-elevation roadway through the San Juan Mountains.
The weather is unpredictable, and elevations reach 11,000 feet.
In Florida, Interstate 95 is a favorite among tourists, and you can catch some ocean views along the way, but it’s one of the deadliest roads in America. This is probably because it handles a lot of traffic, and drivers can be somewhat aggressive. Distracted driving is another probable reason it’s so dangerous.
In Montana, Highway 2 is remote and near Glacier National Park. Semi-trucks and passenger vehicles tend to go fast, and it takes a long time for responders to reach accident victims.
Driving a Car That’s Not In Good Condition
If your car is old or not well-maintained, it’s probably best to avoid a road trip. Before you leave, you should always have a professional check your car’s basic functions and fluids. Otherwise, you risk winding up stranded.
Another option aside from driving an older or less reliable car is to rent one. It may be more expensive upfront, but you’ll save money compared to getting stuck somewhere.
Putting Your Feet on the Dashboard
Most of us have been a passenger and put our feet on the car’s dashboard at one point or another, but it may be an incredibly dangerous decision.
If you were in an accident and your feet were on the dashboard, the airbag can deploy, bringing a force of more than 880 pounds to the car’s front passenger. If your feet are on the dash, it can lead to your knees being slammed into your face or chest.
That recently happened, and a young woman suffered a broken cheekbone, nose and eye socket, and brain damage.
Only Using One Form of GPS
When you’re using a navigation app, as most of us do, you might not think about the need for a backup. If you lose signal, however, or one app isn’t showing all the stops or traffic ahead of you, then you might want to use another one.
A good option is to use a combination of both Google Maps and Waze simultaneously.
With that in mind, you should also download your maps offline in case you can’t access them at any point.
There are apps that have options for you to specifically download your route ahead of time so you can use your GPS while you aren’t online.
Finally, try to plan where you’ll stay in advance. If you’re checking into the most convenient roadside motel, not only can it be a danger to your personal safety, but you might also experience bedbugs or similar health-related risks. If you plan where to stay before you leave, you’ll be able to check reviews and vet your accommodations more thoroughly.