As COVID-19 lingers on, many of us are facing the prospect of another summer spent in lockdown or under restrictions. And yet summer is when many people look forward to traveling and enjoying the great weather. As flying is still risky or unadvisable for many countries, many are turning to road trips as an alternative.
Road trips have their own charm, but driving for hours, perhaps even days, can be difficult on anyone. Regular concerns with road safety are exacerbated when instead of driving for a half hour, you're driving for several hours. Finding ways to avoid distraction and fatigue can be difficult, and pose real risks to safety if they are not seriously considered.
In an article for Self, Melissa Matthews spoke to some people who are perhaps the most qualified to give advice when it comes to how to safely navigate long driving trips: long-haul truckers. Spending 40 hours a week on the road is their job, and with bigger and more difficult to maneuver vehicles to contend with, long-haul drivers have to become experts at how to keep safe and how to keep their attention on the road.
The advice they provided was right on point, with lots of savvy tips that all of us should look to incorporate when taking road trips, or on any long driving trips at all, for that matter.
One of the most important pieces of advice they had to give concerned doing lots of planning in advance of your trip:
"Everyone we talked to said the same thing: Mapping out the specifics of your road trip is the best way to eliminate stress and even avoid hazards when driving. Too many people simply plug their destination into Google Maps while driving without any idea about when and where they want to make pit stops..."
Part of mapping of the specifics includes finding out where there are recreation areas, restrooms, and dining along your route that could provide convenient places to stop and take a rest. All of the truck drivers interviewed by Matthews highlighted the importance of taking regular stops, even when it feels counterintuitive to your overall progress.
"You might try to drive to your destination with minimal pit stops. Resist the temptation. Every driver we spoke to said it was important to stop every two to three hours to stretch and go to the bathroom."
Many drivers mentioned a different sort of planning; what to bring as snacks and drinks on the trip. The choices that long-haul truckers make are often strategic; protein heavy stacks that make them feel energized and alert when they're behind the wheel. They also advised that you make sure you are drinking enough water. While you may be inclined to avoid drinking too much water in order to avoid having to stop for bathroom breaks, one driver pointed out that dehydration can lead to headaches and dizziness, which puts you and other drivers at risk. And, as already mentioned, frequent stops are by no means a bad thing on a long drive.
Finally, all the drivers interviewed made a similar request: be cautious when driving around trucks! This answer may be expected coming from long-haul truckers, but it is sage advice, and no one knows better than long-haul truckers how reckless car drivers can behave around large vehicles. Many drivers don't consciously think about the huge differences between the types of vehicles. Commercial trucks aren't like cars; they take far longer to stop and have larger blind spots, meaning that reckless maneuvers around them can get really dangerous, really fast.
"According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, you shouldn't be so close that you can read a truck driver's license plate... And while you may be anxious to get in front of a slow-moving vehicle, never cut in front of large trucks. A truck traveling at highway speeds in regular conditions needs a distance of roughly two football fields to stop safely."
Road trips are all about having fun while getting to your destination. With a carful of family or friends and some good music playing, road trips are an ideal way to feel like you're getting away and enjoying your vacation. But the risks that come with road trips, versus the (non-pandemic) risks of flying, are completely different. Have fun but take your time, relax, and ensure that you are always behaving in a way that isn't putting you or others around you in danger.
For more advice from the long-haul truckers interviewed by Melissa Matthews for Self, check out the original article.