Driving over a long distance in one day can be a fun and pleasurable experience. Still, it will also test your mental and physical endurance, and there are general guidelines that ensure the safety of the driver and those onboard.
Let’s run over what you need to know in order to prepare for your trip and find out how far it’s safe to drive in one day.
There aren’t any laws governing how far it’s safe to drive in one day, but as a general rule, don’t exceed more than 8 hours of driving over a 24-hour period, and take rest breaks every 2 hours.
Preparation is paramount to driving long distances; additional factors to consider include vehicle type, the number of passengers, and the time of day.
How often should you have rest stops?
If you can view your driving route beforehand, in most instances, you’ll be able to plan your rest stops, which will save the energy of wondering where they are when on the route.
Another method to locate rest stops is to use applications such as Google maps, or multi-stop route planners, that can deliver real-time information on the location of upcoming stop-off points.
It’s also been mentioned that between 1-4 pm, the body naturally becomes drowsy, so if you’re planning a stop off on a day trip, between these times are perfect for stopping and refueling the body.
Preparation for a long drive
- General car checks are crucial, as the last thing you want is for your car to give up on you halfway through your trip!
- Take an emergency car survival kit, including a Flashlight, Jumper cables, reflective vest, first aid kit, a fully inflated spare tire, and roadside toolkit.
- Make sure your car has a full tank of gas, and consider carrying extra with you if driving a long stretch and unsure if there are fuel stations on the route.
The saying “It’s all in the mind” holds some truth with long-distance driving. If you know you’re driving 300 miles in one day, you may feel tired before you even begin driving!
To combat this, preparation is important, as this way, you’ll be more confident about your drive and also feel in control of the day ahead.
Planning may include:
- Researching rest stops can give peace of mind and help to induce less stress on a driving day. Also, be social at these stops, which can help lift your mood and also break up the feeling of long driving.
- Proper sleep beforehand is essential. The road will test mental endurance, and sleep is a vital component of mental awareness.
- Similar to warming up for a marathon, ease yourself into driving by gradually increasing your range of driving between rest stops.
- Having a music playlist, keeping you and those onboard entertained can help distract from the long distance and help to lift the mood.
- Chewing gum can help and has been shown to help increase blood circulation and mental clarity.
Signs that you need to stop driving
Driver fatigue can impair your driving and should be taken very seriously. If you’re experiencing any of the below symptoms, then pull over to the next safe stopping point and get some well-needed rest.
Signs of Driver fatigue include:
- Feeling sleepy, yawning, eyes closing
- Headaches, eye strain
- Falling in and out of daydreams
- Forgetting your route or where you were a few minutes prior
- Lane drifting
To stay safe, it’s important to remain flexible with your target distance. You should strongly reconsider your daily driving distance target if you’re feeling any of the above signs.
Better to be safe than sorry.
The number of passengers in the car
Driving alone for lengthy periods of time will test your patience, stamina, and concentration levels. To help with this, try turning on the radio.
Don’t turn it up so loud it distracts you from the road ahead, but a little background noise can help carry your attention and stay focused on the drive.
Also, use a GPS, such as Google maps or a satnav, with an automated voice function for long routes. This can help you to stay focused and provide a sense of comfort by giving you updates on the road ahead, such as traffic congestion and speed cameras.
Bringing along another passenger can be highly beneficial for your long drive, and even better if they’re an experienced driver who can share the driving with you.
If you’re planning to share the driving, then for maximum safety, switch seats every 2 hours, and enjoy the passenger views or some shut-eye!
Driving with family
If driving with family, you’ll need to take into consideration their needs and requirements, too, such as snacks, music, seating positions, and rest/bathroom stops.
For instance, driving with children will dramatically change the dynamic in the car.
Children will also require more breaks, and these breaks are going to be longer compared to if you were alone to allow them to release pent-up energy.
It’s very important to plan ahead in these instances, ensuring the well-being of everyone in the car.
5 additional factors to consider when driving long distances
Depending on the vehicle you’re driving, your energy levels will be affected accordingly. If you’re straining or leaning more often, then you will get tired quicker, so getting to know your vehicle before you will be driving will prove beneficial on the trip.
Larger vehicles carry a greater mass, and feature a larger steering wheel, gear shift, and consume more fuel.
This needs to be considered when planning a long drive, as you may or may not need frequent stops for vehicle checks and refueling, and you may also need to rest more often, as you’ll be exerting more energy compared to driving a regular car.
With motorbikes, similar to cars, it’s advisable to stop every 2 hours or so. Different types of bikes will have varying fuel capacities, so keep an eye on this to ensure you don’t break down!
For safety measures, road conditions and terrain are of paramount importance, and if these are on the harsher side with wind, bumps, and debris, you will need to stop more often to rest your body.
Different weather conditions can greatly impact your journey. Colder seasons can be windy and rainy, which can be a scary experience, and you may need to allow for more travel time.
In the winter, icy and snowy roads are also common, meaning your tires may need to be adjusted to handle these conditions prior to driving.
On the other hand, summer can be sweltering, meaning you will need to check your car fluids more often, and your car will need proper ventilation to avoid passenger dehydration and general discomfort.
If you’re planning to drive at a higher elevation than you’re used to, such as up a mountain, there will be less oxygen in the air, and your body may not have enough time to adjust to this, and in some cases, this can lead to altitude sickness.
To help avoid this, you should drink plenty of water before the trip and have plenty of rest stops along the way.
Cars also need oxygen to function, and as you climb higher, there is less available, meaning your car won’t produce as much power, and tire pressure will also be affected, resulting in lower car function and performance.
So if you’re planning to drive through high-altitude areas for lengthy periods of time, you will need to make sure both those on board and your car are prepared for this beforehand.
When driving over long distances, you may cover sections of the road where you won’t find a functional gas pump for 100-150 miles, and therefore it’s important to know when to refuel your vehicle.
For instance, if you’re entering a wilderness area and approaching half a tank of gas, then stop off at the next point and refuel your vehicle.
If you have access to phone applications that can help pinpoint gas stations, then great, but if not, a good idea is to keep note of gas pumps on the route, which can help if you’re returning via the same route.
Food and water supplies
If you think that taking an apple and banana on an 8-hour trip will suffice, then think again.
Hunger cravings are common when driving long distances, as our bodies also need proper fuel to be able to withstand the mental endurance this demands.
So, taking sandwiches and extra food on the drive can really help over long stretches without official stop-off points.
The most important, however, is to ensure everyone on board has enough water. Throughout the day, our bodies continuously lose water. When driving, our body is in performance mode and dehydrating faster at the same time.
The detrimental effects of dehydration on physical and mental well-being have been well documented, so to avoid driver errors, make sure you have enough water onboard and drink to your thirst.
When driving long distances, general guidelines state a 15-minute rest every 2 hours, with a maximum of 8 hours driving over a 24-hour period.
Yet, there are additional factors to take into consideration, such as the number of passengers onboard, vehicle type, and so on, all of which affect the drive, which is why proper preparation is essential for both physical and mental well-being.