Fatigue can be a killer on long distance driving trips. The common advice is to stop every few hours and have a short rest; walk around, stretch cramped muscles, re – focus your eyes and eat or drink a snack. However it does depend on your energy level, motivation to complete the day’s journey plus weather and road conditions. Plan your route with enough time and allow for emergencies such as roadworks, car breakdowns, bad weather, political instability and laborious bureaucracy at international border crossings.
No matter how well prepared you are, sometimes things go wrong. I recall the mad rush and long drive to catch a ferry on time or to reach a country’s border post before it closed. Or even arriving in a town late in the day and trying to find vacant accommodation when it was not pre-booked and forced to continue driving in a bad mood until an expensive bed was found. The key for safe long distance driving is to plan ahead as much as possible.
Here’s a 10-point checklist for planning your route to stay alert, rested and safe on a long road trip.
- How far do you wish to drive?
- Do you have a partner to share the driving?
- Are you solo or with other vehicles?
- How much long distance driving experience do you have for day and /or night driving? Are you an early riser and enjoy empty morning roads?
- What condition is your car in? What is its fuel capacity? Where are the fuel stations en route?
- Check the weather forecast.
- Check traffic and road conditions.
- Check towns or roadhouses en route to stop, rest and buy refreshments or take your own snacks. Don’t forget plenty of drinking water.
- Check points of interest en route for when to stop and rest.
- Keep in touch with family and friends especially in remote place.
Here is journalist Mick Matheson’s recent account of his late night driving shift to cover 900 kilometres for a birthday dinner.
“Everyone says you must know when to stop if you’re ever to be a safe and competent long-distance driver, but sometimes you need to recognise when it’s time to go.
I’m not talking about early departures that enable you to knock over a long stint before breakfast. I’m not even talking about ensuring you don’t over-stay your lunch break by five minutes. I’m referring to a less common but often beneficial start to the end of a day’s driving. It happens after dinner. I used this tactic last week. Rather than stop early on the Wednesday and then face a 900km drive on Thursday, I squeezed in an extra 300km between dinner and bedtime. It was the right decision.
It worked well for a few reasons.
First, I had a couple of hours’ rest and and a freshen-up early in the evening, along with dinner and a cup of coffee. So when I hit the road again just before 8.30pm, I felt as if I was starting a new day’s driving. Alert, awake and enthusiastic.
Second, the 300km night-time stint was on easy highways where I knew I could maintain a good average speed. It took me three and a half hours. By midnight my head was on a pillow.
Third, Thursday’s drive — the last leg of my trip — was transformed. I wanted to be home by 5pm so I could take my wife to dinner for her birthday, and doing 900km by 5pm with enough energy in reserve to be a loving husband ain’t easy! At 600km, it was a cinch.
Of course, you’ve probably realised by now I was in a modern vehicle. It’s all relative, though. The point is that there are occasions when it’s wise to put in one more stint behind the wheel before you stop for the night.
Weigh up your own ability to carry on after giving yourself a rest in the early evening. Consider whether you’ll wake up fresh enough to take advantage of the night’s drive. Work out whether tomorrow’s driving will be easier for the effort.
And finally, if you elect to put in a late one, line up your accommodation before you commit because there’s nothing worse than ruining it all by having a dreadful night’s sleep in the car.”
For more information on Mick, read about his vast motoring experience.http://www.longdistancedriving.com/interviews-with-expert-tips/mick-drivesrides-any-machine-on-wheels/
Not long now before year’s end; a great time to plan your long road trip and enjoy a holiday, family visit or motoring challenge.
Until next month, safe long distance motoring.