How to Be Safe on a Solo Road Trip

Jan 14, 2020 02:31 AM EST | Staff Reporter

How to Be Safe on a Solo Road Trip

(Photo : Unsplash)

The idea of a solo road trip is one that can sound exciting and liberating. You're hitting the open road, perhaps without even having a clear destination in mind. Road trips give you the chance to get to know the country you're in and yourself. 

Many people feel they can't go on a solo road trip however, for various reasons. There are risks of driving solo such as fatigue and drowsiness. Being fatigued behind the wheel is one of the reasons for sharing the road with long-distance truckers can be so dangerous.

With a solo trip, what's important is to gain an understanding of what the risks are, and then plan for ways to reduce those risks by being proactive and aware. 

Identifying the Risks of a Solo Road Trip

As was touched on, one of the biggest risks of a solo road trip, no matter what country you're in, is fatigue. Getting behind the wheel when you're fatigued can be as dangerous as driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. 

Another risk is facing car trouble while you're on the road. 

Depending on where you're going to be driving, there can be hazardous or even treacherous conditions you're facing, and there can be risks relating to dealing with people you encounter along the way. 

However, all of these risks can be mitigated with the following safety tips for a solo road trip.

Ditch the Open Road Idea

One of the most romantic concepts surrounding a road trip, solo or otherwise, is that you're going to hit the open road and see where it takes you.

That might not be the best approach if you're making a solo trip, however. 

You want to have a pretty well-mapped out plan so that you can let someone back home know where you'll be and when they can expect to hear from you.

Save the fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants trip for when you have someone going with you. 

Even if you make some fun stops along the way, you should have some plan of where you'll stop and also when you'll be home.

Avoid Fatigue

When you're traveling alone, you're more likely to be impacted by the effects of fatigue. There's no one to talk to when you get tired, and you don't have someone you can swap driving time with.

It makes it very important to recognize the signs of fatigue and take the necessary precautions.

Some signs that you are too tired to drive include:

  • You have a hard time focusing, or you feel like you're blinking more often than usual

  • Your eyelids feel heavy

  • You're having wandering thoughts or daydreaming-you might look back over the past few minutes and not be able to remember what you were doing

  • Frequent yawning

  • Rubbing your eyes

  • Drifting or hitting the rumble strip on the side of the road

  • Restlessness

  • Missing exits or traffic signs

What you might not realize is that well before you're at the point where you feel like you could fall asleep, you could be experiencing problems with attention and slow reaction times. 

Even if you are fully awake, but you're feeling tired, your brain isn't functioning at an optimal level. 

Before you start driving, make sure that you get a full night's sleep. As soon as you start feeling sleepy, pull over to at least take a quick nap. 

Even if you're well-rested, driving between the hours of midnight and six a.m. can be dangerous because of your natural biological rhythm. 

Check Your Car Out

Before any road trip, you want to check your car out. This becomes especially important for a solo trip. The more you can minimize the potential of car troubles, the safer you'll be.

If you know a little about cars, you might be able to do this on your own, and if not, you can take it to a professional.

Let them know how far you're going to be driving and a little about your plan so they can check everything that'll be most important when you're on the road. 

Don't Forget the Essentials

There are some things you'll need to make sure are in your car before you go on a road trip.

These essentials include your registration and insurance information, a spare tire, and a roadside emergency kit. In your emergency kit, you'll want to make sure you have a water-resistant flashlight as well as:

  • Jumper cables or a lithium-ion battery with jumper cables

  • LED flares, or triangle reflectors

  • At least a quart of motor oil and a gallon of coolant

  • First-aid kit

  • Blanket

  • Extra batteries

  • A tool kit

  • Fix-a-Flat and a can of tire inflator

  • Tire pressure gauge

  • If it's winter, an ice scraper

  • Non-perishable snacks

  • Bottled water

You should know how to use all the items you bring on your trip too. For example, you'll need to make sure you know how to change a tire, and what to do if your car breaks down. 

If you have an AAA membership, then you'll be able to give them a call if something happens that's beyond your knowledge as far as fixing it. 

Additionally, think about bringing a paper map if you're going on a road trip. Your smartphone maps and apps might not work if you lose service, so a paper map is a good backup. 

Something else that isn't a necessity but might be useful during a solo road trip are screens fo your car windows. This lets you stop and take a nap as you need without everyone walking by your window and seeing you in there. You can also use screens to keep valuables out of view if you're going to be leaving them in your car. 

The more prepared you can be, the more smoothly and safely your road trip is likely to go. Try to think about the unexpected as much as you can, and make sure you have a plan for those scenarios. 

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