Road trips are a popular trek for travelers all over the world. Traveling by car, bus, or train gives you a beautiful view into new areas, allowing you to see the sights while getting to the final destination. However, without the proper preparation, you can encounter unsafe situations during your travels.
The 8 important things to know about road trips include:
- You can get lost.
- You will encounter crime in unfamiliar areas.
- There are potential health risks.
- Your home is empty for long periods.
- You might not always drive safely.
- You might drive while drowsy.
- The weather could cause problems.
- You may experience vehicle breakdowns.
The good news is that all of these dangers are preventable. While it’s impossible to prepare for every situation, this article will cover a few things you can do to have the safest, most enjoyable time.
1. You Can Get Lost
Part of the fun of a road trip is getting lost in an unfamiliar place. But it’s not always exciting, and it can even be dangerous. In an age of technology dependence, we rely heavily on our cell phones and GPS to safely reach our destination.
When taking a road trip by any transportation system, getting lost is an eventuality. Phones die, and your GPS can lose signal in rural areas, leaving you with no “Plan B.”
Usually, losing track of your position just involves asking a friendly stranger for help or consulting with your bus driver. However, things can go south, and you’re lost in the middle of the night with nowhere to sleep, or you end up in a town without a way home, things can get dangerous.
What You Can Do
Thankfully, avoiding this situation is easy enough.
You will need to put a contingency plan in place, other than your phone or GPS, like a map. If you’re going across the country or even on an international road trip, you’ll need a series of maps that display every location on your journey.
You might be unfamiliar with reading a map from years of only using a digital option.
Take some time to prepare by plotting out your journey on the hardcopy map. That way, if the time comes for you to use it, you can easily find your location and where you need to go.
Additionally, make sure you always have enough local currency on you to buy an emergency ride for you and your group. In some cases, getting lost is fixed with an easy cab trip to your hotel or a ride to the bus station.
Keep an emergency fund with you, and you’ll always be able to get out of a bind.
2. You Will Encounter Crime in Unfamiliar Places
Entering a new area is an exciting road trip experience, but it’s important to keep your eyes out for potentially dangerous situations. Often, travelers are tired by the end of the day and less likely to keep the same level of vigilance against crime.
Whether that’s leaving your car or hotel room unlocked or absentmindedly putting your wallet in a visible pocket, it’s necessary to stay alert. Most often, you won’t run into any trouble, but it’s better to be prepared on the off chance you do.
What You Can Do
Tourists are often targeted for crimes like theft because they don’t know the area and are more susceptible. Avoid that possibility by following these easy safety tips:
- Don’t carry a lot of cash or credit cards.
- Keep vehicles and hotel rooms locked at all times.
- Ensure your baggage is in your sight or safely locked away.
- Stay in well-lit areas when possible.
- Take valuables with you and never leave them in a hotel room or car.
- Don’t allow strangers into your room or car.
- Stay aware of your surroundings.
- Travel with a buddy when possible.
It’s impossible to prepare for any situation, but keeping a clear head and using safety tips is crucial. Road trips should be a fun, exciting experience, not a memory of losing your wallet, so keep these in mind.
3. There Are Potential Health Risks
Traveling for long periods can affect your health in a few different ways. Heatstroke is a genuine danger in hot climates and the case of broken vehicles, and the best way to avoid getting stuck out in the sun is to prepare your car for travel and stock up with supplies.
Other than heatstroke, some cases of deep vein thrombosis occur after sitting for long periods.
Deep vein thrombosis is a blood clot that forms in a vein deep inside your lower leg or thigh. Risk factors are surgery, smoking, other medications like birth control, and related health disorders. However, sitting for a long time is also a concern.
What You Can Do
To prevent deep vein thrombosis, make sure you get up and stretch throughout your trip. Avoid other risk factors like smoking, and watch for warning signs. If you’re at a higher risk, take additional care to ensure you stay healthy and active on your road trip.
4. Your Home Is Empty for Long Periods
When you go on a road trip, even for a weekend, you might be leaving your home without a caretaker. While that’s rarely an issue, in some cases it can allow burglars to exploit the lack of inhabitants.
Not only are you at higher risk for theft, but without your supervision, there are other dangers to your home.
If you live in a group home or apartment, there’s always a chance of fire. Additionally, extreme weather can affect your home. That said, there are a few things you can do to ensure the safety of your home or apartment.
What You Can Do
Never announce your road trip online or to extended friends.
You can tell trusted individuals, but posting about your plans online opens you up to theft and break-ins. Check all your doors, windows, and locks, and ask a neighbor or friend to watch over your house and pick up mail.
Test any smoke alarms or detectors in your home to ensure they can alert neighbors or house-sitters. Last, secure windows, outdoor furniture, and anything else that may be affected by the weather.
5. You Might Not Always Drive Safely
The top safety issue on road trips is the danger encountered on the roads.
Long-distance trips generally happen in a car, bus, or motorcycle, and every year, more than 1.3 million people die in car accidents worldwide. That’s in addition to 20-50 million yearly motor vehicle injuries.
Road trips are especially risky because driving for long distances can increase the chances of danger on the road, drowsy driving, and inclement weather. Let’s look at how you can ensure the safest travel.
What You Can Do
The only driver you can control is yourself. Other drivers on the road might be distracted, tired, under the influence, or just novices.
To avoid danger, use these precautions:
- Obey traffic laws.
- Ensure every passenger is wearing a seatbelt.
- Only drive when you are alert and prepared.
Speeding can increase the likelihood of traffic accidents, as can ignoring other road laws.
Take extra caution around work sites, when driving late at night, and in inclement weather. Seatbelts are vital to prevent injury or death in the case of a car crash. The risk of injury goes down by 50% when you use a seatbelt.
In addition to following traffic laws and staying safe in the vehicle with a seatbelt, you can also reduce the risk by avoiding drowsy driving.
Use Safe Strategies to Keep Yourself Safe
With so many automobile accidents every year, it might feel scary to take a road trip. But there are strategies to use to keep yourself safe. Read up on the laws and potential weather in your destination. If you enjoy a cross-country drive or road-tripping internationally, keep in mind that local laws and weather will differ from your hometown.
6. You Might Drive While Drowsy
Whether you’re traveling by car, motorcycle, bus, or van, drowsy driving is a serious issue. While most people understand the danger of driving under the influence, drowsy driving isn’t always considered dangerous, but it is.
According to the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration), there were 697 drowsy driving deaths in 2019 alone. Unsurprisingly, drowsy driving crashes happen most often between 12:00 and 6:00 am and are also more common on rural roads.
What You Can Do
You can only prevent drowsy driving by getting enough regular sleep.
Adults need at least seven hours of sleep every night, while teenagers need even more. According to the CDC, teens of driving age need between 8-10 hours. If you plan on driving a car, motorcycle, bus, or van during your road trip, prepare for the journey by getting a regular sleep routine.
While on the trip, it’s also essential to check into hotels when necessary and give yourself enough time to re-energize fully. Coffee and caffeinated drinks can act as a short-term solution, but they’re dangerous to rely on.
Take breaks on long trips to rest up so you can continue your trip safely.
7. The Weather Could Cause Problems
Even when you follow the law and maintain control of your vigilance, there are some things you can’t control. Road trips have the chance of dangerous weather.
When you travel for a longer distance, it’s more likely you’ll come across extreme weather. Rain, sleet, snow, ice, fog, and wind can increase the chance of car accidents.
In the U.S., more than one million motor crashes are weather-related.
What You Can Do
You’ll likely have to drive through some form of inclement weather on your road trip. Being prepared for this eventuality will help you stay calm in the face of potential danger and drive as safely as possible.
However, one study found that the more it rained in a month, the fewer fatal weather-related car crashes there were. There are two potential reasons for this, these are:
- More rain washes off debris and oil from roads, making them easier to drive on.
- More practice driving in the rain might lead to increased control on the streets.
If you cross paths with rain, sleet, snow, or fog, stay calm and drive slowly. Always use your headlights and be careful not to overcorrect in the event of skidding.
Driving in extreme weather can be scary and is always dangerous, but it doesn’t have to ruin your road trip.
8. You May Experience Vehicle Breakdowns
Every road trip comes with some speed bumps. Sometimes, those come in the form of a broken-down car or a delayed train. Whether you’re driving yourself or enjoying time as a passenger in a larger vehicle, your trip might involve some delays.
The good news about buses, trains, and planes is that you have no control over the vehicle’s health. In other words, if your bus or van breaks down or your train has a delay, you don’t need to call for roadside assistance or fix it yourself.
What You Can Do
If you’re driving through your road trip and experience car trouble, you’ll need to handle the situation. You will need to create a roadside assistance plan that covers your issue with towing, battery replacement, tire changes, and more.
That way, you’ll never be stuck on the side of the road.
Aside from planning for roadside assistance, make sure you prepare for any disaster, which includes getting your car checked before travel and packing your vehicle with emergency supplies. Take it to a mechanic to check for any potential issues.
Then, stock your vehicle with these items at the minimum:
- Jumper cables
- First aid kit
- Nonperishable food
- Tools for repairs
By preparing for any breakdown, you’ll be able to have a relaxing trip without the stress of a potential misadventure.
Road trips are a fun way to explore your country, see the world, and experience life on the road, but they do come with some safety issues. If you’re planning a road trip, even a short one, it’s critical to stay informed about possible dangers on the road and back at home.
Prepare by securing your home and taking care while on the roads.
Also, remember to stay aware of crime and take frequent breaks to avoid the health risks of sitting for long periods. If you follow those suggestions, you’re sure to have a fantastic trip.
- Texas Department of Public Safety: Making Travel Safer and More Enjoyable
- Springfield Police: Vacation Crime Prevention Tips
- National Highway Traffic Safety Administration: Summer Driving & Road Trip Tips
- Mayo Clinic: Deep Vein Thrombosis – Symptoms and causes
- Canton Police Department: Vacation Crime Prevention Tips
- Centers for Disease Control & Prevention: International Road Safety
- American Red Cross: Highway Safety
- Centers for Disease Control & Prevention: Policy Impact: Seatbelts
- U.S. Department of Transportation: Overview of Motor Vehicle Crashes in 2019
- Centers for Disease Control & Prevention: How Much Sleep Do I Need?
- U.S. Department of Transportation: How Do Weather Events Impact Roads
- University of California Berkeley News: Rain is More Lethal for Drivers After a Long Dry Spell, Says New Study
- Texas Department of Insurance: 5 Tips for Driving in Rain
- Office of Public Insurance Counsel: Know Your Coverage: Roadside Assistance