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Blog category: Driving

5 Safety Tips for Long Drives

6 min read

Are you planning a big vacation road trip or getting ready for a long-distance move? Long car rides can be a fun opportunity for family bonding or spending time with friends. However, they can also increase your risk of getting in an accident. The more time you spend on the road without a break, the more chance you have of getting in an accident. We’ve gathered our top safety tips for long drives to ensure you reach your destination safely.

1. Plan Ahead

The best thing you can do to increase safety on your long car ride is to make a plan — while allowing room for spontaneity or schedule changes. Give yourself plenty of time by starting the planning process well in advance of your trip. Start by picking the route you want to take. Make sure you choose a few alternative routes as well in case of road closures or accidents. Many smartphone apps allow you to save routes on your phone for easy access.

When planning your route, look for natural stopping points. Pick a few options for a stopping place for each day of your trip, and look up lodging, fuel, and food in those areas. By choosing multiple stopping-point options, you can adjust each day of your trip to how you feel. If you’re extremely tired one day, you can stop at the first marked spot so you’re not trying to reach a destination that’s several hours away. Never drive when you’re overtired — it’s a dangerous driving habit. Exhausted drivers are dangerous to themselves and everyone else on the road. So, taking all the breaks you need is an essential driving safety tip.

While planning the long car ride, make sure you have your essential documents in order. Are your driver’s license and car insurance current? Do you have your car registration handy? Is your roadside assistance coverage up to date? Organize the contents of the car and be sure these documents have their place. Some tips for long drives help avoid problems on your trip, while others set you up for success just in case something goes wrong. Long car rides call for lots of snacks and refreshments. Stopping at a restaurant or a drive-through fast food is a great way to plan a break. But bringing snacks and water will help to keep everyone more comfortable for the long haul.

2. Pack More than the Essentials

Preparation is the key to a successful road trip. Our long distance driving tips help you anticipate potential problems to ensure you can detour around them or overcome them more easily. That’s why it’s important to have a tire changing kit, spare tire, and tool kit in your vehicle on any trip. However, long car rides require more than just the basic car care essentials.

Pack for unexpected weather and car breakdowns. Sunscreen, sunglasses, and a wide-brimmed hat can help keep you safe from harsh sunlight if you’re stuck along the road. For cold-weather travel, add thermal underwear, snow boots, and air-activated hand or foot warmers.

Because you might experience a breakdown, you should be prepared with an auto emergency kit. Include your kit first aid supplies, jumper cables, tire inflator, duct tape, and road flares. You should also consider packing flashlights, batteries, and headlamps in case you need to change a tire or fix your car at night.

Consider adding roadside assistance to your car insurance policy if you don’t already have it. Roadside assistance can help tow your car to the nearest shop, deliver fuel, or jumpstart your battery. Knowing you have a safety net provides much peace needed peace of mind on the road.

3. Check Your Car

One of the most crucial tips for long drives is to fully prepare your vehicle for the trip. The last thing you want when you’re on the road is a mechanical failure that could have been avoided.

Head to a repair shop for routine maintenance and a tune-up before you start driving. Take your car to a trusted mechanic a week or two before your trip. This gives your mechanic time to look at your vehicle and make any necessary repairs before you head out.

Make sure your car is up to date on oil changes, tire inflation, and rotation, and have all the fluids topped up before leaving the shop.

4. Stay Alert on the Road

Learning to stay alert is a long-distance driving tip truckers constantly must work on. It’s how they make their living. The temptation to look at your cell phone or other distractions as you drive only gets worse the longer you’re on the road. The more you drive, the easier it is to lose focus and let your mind wander. The dullness of a long stretch of highway may lull you into a false sense of security.

So, let’s take advantage of some of the tips for long drives truckers rely on. They recommend taking a break when it's needed. Each time you’re tempted to look at your phone or find your mind wandering from the road, pull over and take a break. If you’re tired, pull to a safe place and let yourself take a quick 15-minute cat nap.

If stopping isn’t an option, such as on a long, winding mountain pass, roll the windows down and breathe in some fresh air. Even with air conditioning, your car’s cabin can get stuffy and lead to drowsiness or distracted driving. The fresh air helps you stay more alert.

Chewing gum can also help you stay more alert at the wheel. The motion of constantly chewing the gum helps give you something to keep you awake. The simple motion, however, doesn’t require a lot of effort or thought, so you can keep your mind on the road. A crunchy snack is an alternative to gum that can also help to keep you more alert on long car rides. Also, staying hydrated is essential to maintaining alertness.

While looking at your phone is a dangerous distraction, entertaining your ears while you drive is a great way to remain alert and focused. Many truckers use audiobooks or podcasts to while away long hours on the road.

5. Stop and Stretch Every Couple of Hours

One of the most important long drive tips is to stop regularly and stretch. It’s easy to push yourself to keep driving, but this can lead to more distractions and drowsy driving. Stop every couple of hours to keep yourself refreshed and comfortable during your drive. When you stop, try moving around to increase the blood flow to your brain. Jumping jacks, shoulder rolls, knee raises, and stretching can all get your heart pumping for a gentle wake-me-up.

The second reason to stop and take a break is for the chance to look at your car. An important tip for long drives is each time you fill up on fuel or stop for a restroom break, take a walk around your vehicle paying special attention to your tires. Finding a piece of road debris or a nail in your tire sooner rather than later gives you a chance to get the tire fixed before the damage causes a blowout on the highway.

Sleep When You Need to

As important as your plan is, never hesitate to discard it, if you need to. If you’re too tired to drive safely, pull over and get some rest to ensure your grand adventure doesn’t become a quick trip to the emergency room. This is the most critical tip for long drives.

It's never advised to pull over on the side of a freeway to take a nap. Safely get off at the next exit or a rest stop to recharge. If there isn’t a rest stop handy, gas station parking lots typically offer a safe space to park for a while. Most outfitted truck stops offer clean, secure, simple rooms for low rates to get an hour or two of rest before you hit the road again. This is why it’s important to build some flexibility into your plans. Always make a safe choice when you’re on the road for an extended period. (It’s better to arrive late than to not arrive at all.)

With these driving safety tips, your next road trip should be a great success. Before you head out, contact your friendly Wawanesa representative to be sure your auto insurance policy is up to date.

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The above content is for informational purposes only and is not a direct representation of coverages offered by Wawanesa or its policies. The information does not refer to any specific contract of insurance and does not modify any definitions, provisions, exclusions or limitations expressly stated in any contracts of insurance. All references within the above content are illustrative and may not apply to your situation. The terms and conditions of the actual insurance policy or policies involved in a claim are determinative as to whether an accident or other loss is covered. To understand the coverage under your current policy, please log into the account management platform to review your policy or contact an agent directly.

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