From younger drivers taking their first long vacations to places they’ve dreamed of visiting to older couples relocating to a new home on the other side of the country, long-distance road trips are an iconic experience.
However, a lot of travelers don’t think enough about the fact that these kinds of highway adventures bring challenges and risks that are different from regular daily driving. Getting yourself and your vehicle well-prepared for the road can make all the difference between a peaceful journey you’ll remember fondly for years and a painful or even tragic story.
Long-distance driving can put a lot of strain on your car’s tires, and if they’re already compromised or weakened the chances of a blowout or other mishap increase. Heat, roads under construction, debris from trucks, hundreds of miles of daily wear and tear — these are just some of the threats to the connective surfaces between you and the pavement. If you are concerned about how to pay for replacing bad tires with a new set, you can learn about financing options for tires & wheels. Also, don’t forget about your spare tire and other critical tools for when something goes wrong, such as a jack, tire wrench, and road hazard sign.
Dehydration is a genuine danger for people of all ages, but both novice and experienced drivers too often head out to travel a hundred miles or more on unfamiliar roads without even a drop of water. Backcountry hikers and hunters know how critical it is to have water in a crisis, but in general, we expect roads to mean easy access to all of the trappings of urban life. This can mean catastrophe if you end up in a situation where you are stranded or even hurt. Keeping water bottles in the car is always wise. Even better, consider purchasing a 5-gallon jug for part of a basic emergency kit.
One of the most common causes of automobile accidents is drivers falling asleep. On long-distance trips, it is typical for sleep patterns to be disrupted and for people to get fewer hours of rest each night — exactly the recipe that has been found by studies to greatly increase the likelihood of an accident. It’s better to assume in advance of a big trip that you’re going to be challenged by sleep deprivation and have a plan ready. You need to be prepared for the muddying of your ability to make good decisions as you get sleepy. So always err on the side of caution and pull over at the first warning sign to appraise your situation. If you’re only weary you can roll down your windows, do some stretches that allow you to keep your eyes on the road, and play music that energizes you.
While sometimes people are crippled by the fear that a bad road experience is unavoidable and let their anxieties keep them home, the risks of a long-distance driving trip are typically outweighed by the truth that this kind of travel is convenient, empowering, and memorable. If you prepare properly, a chance to drive to a faraway locale should be embraced as grand adventure.