Mistakes You Need To Stop Making on Long Distance Journeys

Posted by Ben Davidson about 6 months ago

The lockdown has not been kind to those of us who love our cars. For months, we have felt as though our wings had been clipped, as though we were grounded and unable to enjoy the speed and exhilaration that we feel when we’re on the road. Many of us have been itching to test our engines to the limits on the quieter and more open lockdown roads. And as a result many drivers have discovered an unexpected side-effect of the COVID-19 virus… it’s made them break out in speeding tickets! Still, everything comes to he who waits. And responsible, sensible drivers who’ve looked after their cars during the lockdown and sat on their hands until they were given the all clear will appreciate their freedom and autonomy all the more now that lockdown measures are starting to get increasingly relaxed all over the country. 

Many of us are able to drive for longer distances and get to spend more quality time in the cars we cherish. Depending on where you live, you may even be able to cross state lines. Still, this is a time for reflection and self-betterment, rather than a time to jump headlong into “business as usual”. It’s a chance to think about our safety and our wellbeing and that of our families and other road users. It’s a time to correct bad habits and ask ourselves all the right questions before getting behind the wheel. While you may be keen to take advantage of the low gas prices and open roads, if you’re going to be driving long distance in the next few weeks, you need to think about some of the most common mistakes that drivers (yes, even you) make when travelling long distance, and how you’re going to avoid them…

What to check before you go

If you’re the kind of person who usually fills up their gas tank and hits the road, this is the first mistake you’ll need to rectify if you’re travelling on a long journey. You need to plan for every eventuality, and that means getting to know what’s going on with your car- as well as knowing the number of a reliable towing company just in case the worst should happen. While nobody knows your car better than you, we strongly recommend carrying out the following checks before setting off on a long journey;

  • Check your tires have plenty of grip, are set to the correct air pressure and free of nails and punctures

  • Top up your oil and carry a bottle with you

  • Check your other fluids such as your windscreen fluid and coolant. A sharp drop in coolant may just be air lock, but if it consistently needs to be topped up you may have a leak.

  • Make sure all your lights and signals are working. The last thing you need is to get pulled over because you have a tail light out.

  • If you see an engine warning light when you start up your vehicle, get a diagnostic run on it before you set off. It could be something very minor. It could be catastrophic. 

Stop trying to beat the GPS

It’s okay to admit it. When asking the GPS to plan our route for us we take a look at the estimated arrival time and think to ourselves “We’ll just see about that!”. As a result, we’ll spend the rest of the journey trying to beat the GPS and this can mean failing to take the rest stops which might just save our lives (more on that later). Moreover, trying to beat the GPS can cause us to be more impulsive and reckless in our driving. Furthermore, if you should hit bad traffic, a fallen tree or another obstacle that is beyond your power to avoid, this can cause you a lot of undue stress and frustration- potentially making you into the kind of driver that you don’t want to be. Why do that to yourself? You’ve waited so long to spend some quality time with you car. Relax and enjoy the journey rather than marking down the time until you get to your destination. 

Drink less coffee and more water when driving

You’re on the road, you can feel driver fatigue start to kick in, so you swing into a rest stop to pick up a hot cup o’ joe. It gives you a caffeine jolt that makes you feel more awake and alert. Feeling pretty good you get back to the road. But the more coffees you chug the more sleepy you start to feel between caffeine fixes. That’s because the caffeine in the coffee metabolizes very quickly, blocking your receptors for the neurotransmitter adenosine. As the adenosine builds up, your fatigue increases, so you need to stop for another caffeine fix. Moreover, the caffeine in your system can cause you to feel jittery and paranoid, as well as making you overreact in your driving. 

By all means take a cup of coffee on your journey. It tastes delicious and will make your journey more pleasant. But be sure to take a big bottle of water with you, too. Staying hydrated will keep you alert and in control when behind the wheel, as well as giving you a reason to keep stopping, as you break to use the bathroom. Which brings us to...

It doesn’t matter if you’re making good time- plan rest stops in your journey

We highly recommend stopping for a rest break for at least 15 minutes for every 2 hours of driving. This is the best way to combat driver fatigue, not to mention mitigating the damage that all that sitting will do to your body. When we drive, we carry a lot of tension in our bodies and a seated position puts a lot of pressure on our internal organs. Even a short break for a quick walk, a stretch and a trip to the bathroom can mitigate the health risks caused by too much sitting

Take care, look after yourself and your car, and happy driving!


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