Whether it is a weekend getaway or a long adventure trip, road trips are great to experience the thrill of driving on open roads.
We know that road trips are all fun and games until the first hour of the journey passes. And with each passing hour, we start to feel uncomfortable and tired of sitting in one place for extended periods.
However, you can do a few things to make your drive more enjoyable and, most importantly, safer.
Are you heading out on your first long drive? Or are you a seasoned driver? Either way, this article contains a comprehensive list of tips and recommendations you can use before you head out on the open road.
Once you have decided on the destination for your long drive, the first thing you need to do is plan your route. It is best not to let your navigation systems take charge of reaching your destination. Map the route down and the cities you will need to cross to reach your destination. Planning beforehand can help you if your navigation system fails you between your drive.
Ensure you have all your documents, including Registration Certificate, PUC (Pollution Under Control Certificate) and Car Insurance papers.
A tip that most seasoned drivers swear by is topping up the tyre with Nitrogen instead of normal air before a long drive. Nitrogen helps the tyre grip better on the road surface and maintains good mileage.
If you have time before your trip, get a routine check done to make sure your car is running smoothly.
Most importantly, fuel your car . You will find gas stations frequently within city limits; however, gas stations come far and few in between on highways. Fill up your tank entirely before heading out onto the road. Do not let your tank go below the reserve, fuel up once again when you find a gas station.
Spare Tyre - A tyre can burst at any moment, and you may not always be able to find a mechanic at the same time. Carrying a spare tyre can buy you enough time to reach your destination or at least a mechanic nearby.
Jumper Cables with Emergency Battery Booster - If your car battery runs out on you on the highway, you can quickly start the car back up again with Jumper Cables and a Battery Booster. Carrying these along with you will give your car a boost when it runs out on you mid-way through your journey.
Reflective Triangle - While you’re fixing your car during a breakdown, it is wise to place your Reflective Triangle behind the car to alert vehicles on the road of your presence and avoid unnecessary harm.
Tyre Pressure Gauge - One way to spot a slow leak is to check your tyre pressure regularly. This tool comes in handy to check exactly how much air needs to be filled.
Food and Water - Driving long distances can be tiring even if you’re sitting in one place. Keep yourself hydrated while driving and keep snacks in your car to make sure you don’t stay hungry for long periods.
Flashlight - Do not rely on your smartphone for a flashlight; you never know when your phone battery will run out. Keep a high-quality flashlight with spare batteries in your car in case of any emergency.
Maps - You might decide to use the navigation system on your phone while driving; however, you shouldn’t rely on them entirely. Even though navigation systems are constantly updated, they aren’t the most reliable on highways and remote locations. Carry updated printed road maps with you; these will help you plan your route and pit stops.
Multi-tool - One of the most valuable accessories is the multi-tool, equipped with a screwdriver, knife and more. You never know what you might need when and it helps to keep a multi-purpose tool in your car to help you out of tricky situations.
Cleaning Supplies - You may think that you do not require cleaning supplies in your car; however, you could find yourself in messy situations, especially when you store food in the car or have pets or toddlers. Keep basic cleaning supplies in the trunk of your car, such as reusable bags, paper towels, trash can, cleaning solutions, helping you get out of messy situations quickly.
Maintaining high speeds on highways is easier than city roads due to light traffic and broader roads. Ideally, if there’s a speed limit sign, stick close to that range. The speed limit is for your safety and other cars on the road, and you should try your best to comply with them.
However, this is easier said than done. Usually, you are trying to keep up with the cars on the road, who are most likely driving too quickly. The best thing to do is evaluate the road conditions and vehicles and set your ideal speed.
Anyone who drives or even sits in the passenger seat knows that changing lanes is one of the most critical driving manoeuvres. It is especially important while driving on the highway at high speeds.
One of the most common mistakes people make is driving in the wrong lane. The right-most lane is the overtaking lane, commonly mistaken as a secondary driving lane. A slow-moving car in this lane is just inviting trouble.
Before switching lanes, recognise the speed differences between lanes and switch accordingly, altering your car speed.
Ensure you indicate your intent to switch lanes well in advance with the indicators and move only once there is a safe gap.
While this statement is true for driving in the city, it is especially important while driving on the highway at high speeds. The vehicle in front of you could suddenly brake, and if you are travelling at high speeds, not braking on time can cause fatal accidents.
Maintaining a safe distance between vehicles can give you enough time to notice the car braking in front of you, slow your car and apply the brakes.
The key factors of overtaking are timing and judgement. Most accidents on the highways occur due to an error of judgement while overtaking.
Take note of the speed at which the car in front of you is travelling. This will help you understand what gear and speed you will need to travel to overtake the car.
Check for vehicles coming in from behind before you pull out from the lane; the car behind you may be looking to overtake as well, and not checking your rearview mirrors can cause fatal accidents.
Once you’ve overtaken the vehicle, do not suddenly back into the driving lane. Build a gap between the vehicles and once you’ve reached a safe distance, switch back mindfully.
On single carriageways, you have to be a lot more careful; you will have to be mindful of the oncoming traffic as well. Switch lanes only once there is a safe distance between you and the oncoming vehicles, flashing your lights to show your intent to overtake.
While you should be aware of the movements of the vehicles around you, it is equally important to notify other occupants on the road about your movements.
Make sure to indicate while changing lanes and while rejoining the highway. Turn on your hazards when you notice a diversion or an obstruction while simultaneously slowing your speed.
Do not overtake a vehicle without receiving a clear signal from the driver in front of you.
While driving at night, use the headlight pass switch while overtaking in addition to the horn.
Heavy vehicle drivers usually drive at constant speeds with their blinkers on. You don’t need to honk here; you can simply overtake the vehicle.
The rearview mirrors in your car are positioned in calculated positions, providing you with an extra set of eyes while driving.
Make it a habit to check all three mirrors regularly and always check your mirrors before and while overtaking and switching lanes.
This is not to say that there are no blind spots whatsoever. A vehicle can be past the mirror range and be dangerously close to your car. Many drivers, especially in the city, install blind-spot mirrors on their side mirrors, increasing visibility and reducing blind spots.
The latest cars have the added benefit of day-night function on the rear view mirror, reducing the headlight reflections of vehicles behind you.
The health of the driver is of utmost importance while driving long distances. Ensure that you get adequate sleep the night before your long drive.
Make regular stops while driving, and do not push yourself to make up for the lost time. Remember, it is better to arrive late, rather than not arrive at all.
Driving for long distances on highways at a constant speed, with the cabin at a fixed temperature, can lead to Highway Hypnosis . When the scenery gets monotonous, and you drive through long stretches without traffic, it can cause you to zone out. This is particularly dangerous because if there is a sudden need to brake and you’re not fully present to react, it could cause fatal accidents.
Switch between air conditioning and fresh air; the change in temperature and the wind gushing past you should keep you awake.
If you’re with other drivers, keep switching so that everyone gets a chance to rest. If you’re alone, take plenty of breaks and naps to restore your energy levels.
These are tricky situations that a driver needs to navigate smartly and cautiously.
While driving on wet roads, restrict your speed and avoid wet patches and puddles as much as you can. One should avoid driving through water at high speeds because it may lead to the car hydroplaning, where the tyres lose grip, and the car spins out of control.
Avoid braking too hard; braking suddenly on wet roads makes it difficult for the tyres to gain grip and can lead to the vehicle skidding off the road or, worse, onto another vehicle.
Keep your headlights on when it’s raining, even in the morning, so that the oncoming traffic can clearly see your car. Use your hazards when you stop.
Avoid travelling during the night as much as possible. Make sure you are alert, do not get behind the wheel if you are exhausted or tired.
Visibility is key for night driving; keep your windshield and mirror clean and ensure all your lights are working. However, try not to use a high beam while overtaking.
Firstly, stay calm and slowly pull your car over to the side of the road. If you have all the emergency tools we mentioned earlier, you will be out of the situation in no time.
Turn on your hazard lights and place the hazard triangle behind your car. If your car breaks down at night, turn on the lights inside your car to make the car more visible to others.
Assess the damage first. If your tyre needs to be changed, you will have all the tools you need to switch it to the spare. However, if you cannot rectify the problem yourself, call for assistance immediately.
Long drives can be a peaceful and calming experience, especially if you do not run into any problems. It is always best to be prepared before a long drive, charge your phone, dress in comfortable clothes, carry food and inform your close ones about your whereabouts.