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How to Safely Hit the Open Road
The road trip is a quintessential American experience. Modern America is built around roads, and for better or worse, we have a lot less public transportation than other countries. We’re also a very large nation with a lot of geographic diversity. With so much to see and do, it makes sense that we want to get behind the wheel and go.
Compared to air travel, road trips are cheap, accessible, and as much about the journey as the destination. This favorite pastime entered our culture almost as soon as cars were invented but became truly accessible in the 1950s with the advent of low car prices and the national highway system. Soon, people could travel places they’d never dreamed of before, and entrepreneurs found ways to capitalize and make a lot of money.
But as we enter America’s traditional road trip season, it’s worth remembering the darker side to this wholesome tradition. Driving a car to your destination is much less expensive than flying, but it’s also much more dangerous — potentially leading to collisions, injuries, and even fatalities.
Oddly enough, studies report that 77% of all car accidents occur within 15 miles of a person’s home. At the same time, road trips combine many of the riskiest driving behaviors at once, making for a potentially dangerous situation,” says Accident Attorney Ramiro Rodriguez.
Distracted driving is one of the top causes of all motor vehicle collisions, but it’s particularly likely during a road trip. It’s difficult to concentrate for long periods and maintain your focus. Your eyes might start drifting away from the road as the highway stretches on unchanging for miles. You’re also more likely to use electronic devices or eat during a long trip. And that’s not to mention the kids capturing your attention by making a ruckus in the backseat. Also read: Top 10 Driving Distractions
Fatigue can similarly rear its ugly head. Also known as drowsy driving, this is another top cause of car accidents. And anyone who has ever been on a road trip knows how easy it can be to get sleepy. Plus, many people like to leave early for road trips or drive well into the night to reach their destination faster — a recipe for sleepiness.
Roadtrippers also have to contend with unfamiliar sites or traffic patterns. It can be hard to pay attention to everything going on when you’re struggling to decipher a previously unseen road sign or determine which lane you’re supposed to use. These problems can also lead to poor, drastic, or last-minute decision-making that might cause accidents.
Finally, there are the problems of speeding and tailgating. As we’ve already discussed, driving for long stretches can be dull, so, naturally, many people want to get it over with quickly. It can lead to aggressive behavior, breaking the speed limit, or driving too closely behind other cars. That can make it difficult to stop quickly when traffic conditions change.
So, how can you keep your family safe?
Start by recognizing your limits. You can’t change the radio station, calm the kids, eat a burger, or program your GPS while you’re driving. If something is distracting you from the road, you have two safe options — save it for later or pull over.
Next, if you start feeling tired, it’s time to stop driving. Rolling the window down or turning up the music won’t work. Switch out with another driver or take a break — or even a nap — until you feel up to driving again. Finally, remember that it doesn’t matter how quickly you arrive at your destination if you don’t get there in one piece. Speeding subtracts little time from your overall journey but adds significant risks. And if you miss an exit, it’s unfortunate, but not the end of the world.
A good, old-fashioned road trip might be just what your family needs to unwind, bond, and take in the majesty of our great nation. But before you set out on your next big adventure, remember to treat the road and your fellow travelers with respect. Nothing will spoil a vacation faster than a life-altering injury.