Arrive Alive: How To Drive Long Distances Safely

by : John Myre

Perry couldn't control his excitement. He had just coached his son's little league team to a city championship, and the adrenaline was pumping through his system. He went to bed but couldn't sleep. At 11 p.m. he rousted his family from bed to inform them they were leaving on their Florida vacation then and there. The car was packed. Why waste time sleeping? His wife and kids grumbled as they climbed into the car and promptly fell asleep. Around three o'clock Perry came back down to Earth as a mortal man. He dozed off, and the car slipped onto the shoulder. Fortunately, he hit a band of rumble strips and immediately snapped back to alertness. He pulled into a well-lighted rest area and slept soundly until sunrise. It turned out to be a wonderful vacation.
A vacation brings out the little kid in all of us, but that doesn't mean we have to act irresponsibly. Before charging off on your driving vacation, consider these few suggestions:

Plan Ahead

* Keep your car in tip-top shape. Have your mechanic check the cooling system, tires and wiper blades. Carry a roadside emergency kit.

* Before leaving, explain the importance of good behavior and seat belt use.

* Study new routes carefully.

* Stay five seconds behind the car in front to allow time to react to an emergency.

* Turn your radio off in heavy traffic or unfamiliar locations.

* Try to avoid driving at night.

* Do not drive more than 10 hours in a day.

Asleep At The Wheel

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that sleepiness contributes to 100,000 accidents and 1,500 fatalities each year. Sleepiness slows reaction times, decreases awareness, and impairs judgment.

* To help prevent drowsiness:

-get a good night's sleep before you travel.

-make planned stops every two hours or 100 miles.

-avoid alcohol or medicines that make you sleepy. The same applies to heavy meals.

-drive with a passenger who will sit in the front seat and stay awake.

-keep the car cool and well ventilated.

-dab your face with a wet cloth, or apply a cold pack to your neck.

-shift your head often to change your focus and line of sight.

-turn on the radio to provocative talk radio or music you dislike; or sing, whistle, or talk aloud.

-wear sunglasses to avoid glare.

* Coffee or soft drinks will not keep you awake. They can help you feel more alert, but the effects last only a short time.

* If you feel drowsy, don't push yourself. Change drivers, or find a well-lit place with plenty of people around (not the shoulder of the highway) to stop and take a brief nap. Roll down the window enough to allow fresh air in, but not a hand. Lock your doors. Turn off the engine, but keep parking lights lit.

* Before resuming travel, get out of the car, stretch and make sure you are fully awake.

* Night time is not the only dangerous period. Almost everyone's biological clock is programmed to make them feel sleepy between one and four p.m.

If You Break Down

* In an emergency, turn on your flashers and steer to the right shoulder, even if a flat tire bends your rim.

* Get out of the car carefully. Stay off the road. Don't stand behind your car or between cars.

* Raise the hood, put on the emergency flasher lights and attach a white cloth to the door handle or radio antenna.

* To fix a flat tire, go to the next exit or a well-lit parking lot. Get away from traffic, even if your tire is ruined.

* If someone stops to help, politely ask him to phone the police.

* If you have a cell phone, call for help immediately. Do not work on your car alone in the dark.