America was built for road travel, and that makes the road trip one of the best ways to experience every corner of the country. Unfortunately, the USA often doesn’t have the greatest record on traffic safety – the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that 20,160 people died in traffic accidents throughout 2020, a year-on-year rise of 18.4%. What’s more, deaths spiked again in Q1 2021, outlining the clear risk posed to road users. When it comes to a road trip, it’s often difficult to stay focused on the road for 100% of the vacation, especially with family in the car needing distractions. Developing a personal policy to stay safe on the road is crucial to an enjoyable trip.
Protecting yourself – legal insurance
As a first step, you need to properly cover you and your family in the legal and insurance sense. The first step is in the insurance you purchase for yourself and your vehicles. Insurance is a contentious area; it can be expensive for families to get properly covered, and those costs are only rising. Indeed, CNBC predicts that cover will cost 5% more in 2022, following year-on-year rises in getting comprehensive cover. This can encourage drivers to shirk on the policy they take out in order to save money. It’s important that you don’t do this. Take out a policy that properly covers every last potential dollar lost by accident and can cover all of your medical needs, including through declaring conditions. A policy that runs short of the required level can put you at risk as well as others on the road, and place you at risk of costly litigation.
Legal cover is the other part of the equation. The retention of a good car accident attorney will protect you for when legal challenges come in, and also help you to challenge others. This is essential for when there are gaps in the insurance cover that you or the other driver has taken out, or when non-drivers are involved in accidents.
Good driving habits
A road trip is a vacation and so it’s there to be enjoyed. You’ll want to enjoy time with your family or loved ones on the road, by playing games, listening to music, chatting and generally taking away from the boring parts of the road trip. Even when on your own, you might want to really get into an audiobook or podcast that you’ve been trying to find time to enjoy.
There is a risk in all distractions on the road. You should, of course, stay well away from your phone. Hands-free is essential, and if you can’t get into an activity without keeping both hands on the wheel, you shouldn’t. However, it’s important to be aware of the risks of other distractions, including podcasts and audiobooks. Consider keeping the volume low, or switch it off if you’re coming into a difficult stretch of road. Distracted driving is deadly – Click Detroit estimated that 9 people a day died in 2021 because of it, whether that’s a driver or a pedestrian.
It might also be a good idea to check your own driving skill level. According to a study analyzed by Business Insider, Americans are generally overconfident when it comes to driving. 80% of drivers, and men in particular, believe they are a better driver than the next person on the road. Yet, over 90% of accidents are caused by human error. It follows that most drivers might actually need a refresher on what it means to be a good driver, and there’s no better time to do that than before a big road trip vacation. Even a simple online course, or a meeting with a local instructor, can help to give you that refresher and make sure your skills are in top shape for the road.
Even the best driver cannot completely prepare for the actions of others on the road. The law is rigorous in its pursuit of poor drivers; the LA Times highlighted the recent 110-year sentence handed to one trucker who had caused a fatal accident after becoming distracted on the road. Nevertheless, accident rates continue to grow.
While being aware on the road you should build awareness of your surroundings, too. Don’t just look at your own actions – look at those as you drive on. Is the road damaged? Are drivers going too fast? Are you occupying a high-priority lane which could attract the wrong sort of driver? Having a gentle awareness of the conditions on the road, and erring on the side of caution even if it sacrifices the time of your arrival, is important. Besides, your time on the road is half of the adventure; that extra time spent driving is an opportunity to relax.
Picking your time
America hosts five different climates, according to PBS. While one state is experiencing scorching hot heat waves, another will have blistering cold and snow. You can experience these climates in a short period of time, too; driving across the USA takes only 8 days, and you can experience the most northern point of Alaska to the Mexican border via the Trans American Highway.
This change in climate will come with significant changes in driving conditions. Frozen roads and snow demand adaptations like tire chains and cautious driving. Conversely, the sweltering conditions on southern highways can create a real risk of dehydration and, potentially, impaired concentration. Before you head into one of the climates, or as you approach the boundary between one region and the next, consider what you have on hand to deal with the new conditions.
Staying safe is the main challenge on any road trip. Having fun is easy – the road is there ahead of you, the lay of the land is ready to be explored, and you have a chance to experience the diverse climates and attractions that the US offers. Don’t let your trip be ruined by a mistake on the road.