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When Is the Best Time to Start a Long Drive?

If you’re considering driving a long distance, then it’s best to plan things out properly, and understanding what time of day you’re going to set off on your route is an important part of this.

With that being said, let’s investigate different factors for you to consider, to help find out what the best time of day is for you to start driving.

Generally, the best time to start a long drive is in the early mornings to avoid rush hour traffic. Although, this doesn’t account for other factors, such as the day of the week, time of year, weather conditions, and personal preferences, which help determine what time of the day to start driving.  

The best day of the week to start a long drive

The best day of the week to make a long drive is generally thought of as Sunday. Sunday is widely known as a day of rest and has the least amount of traffic on the roads throughout the weekly period.

Even so, according to safety reports, it isn’t the safest day to drive. 

According to road data collected by Avvo, in reference to fatal crashes, the safest day of the week to drive is Tuesday, closely followed by Wednesday, then Monday, Sunday, and Friday. The most dangerous day to drive is on Saturday. 

With regards to the safest time of the day to make a drive, this is between 4-10 am, with the most dangerous time being 12 hours later, between 4-10 pm. 

Driving during the day

On a day with regular weather and traffic conditions, setting off on your drive at sunrise, or 6 am is generally accepted as the most practical time. If you’re following the recommended driving limit of no more than 8 hours throughout the day, you’ll be finished driving by the afternoon. 

However, if you want to start your drive later in the morning or the early afternoon, it’s still going to be safer than driving at night. 


  • You’ll have better visibility, and drivers will be more alert.
  • You can maintain your regular sleeping hours.
  • Services are more readily available.
  • You can maintain regular communication with family and friends.


  • More traffic on the roads, taking longer to reach destinations.
  • Greater difficulty finding parking.
  • Gas stations and restaurants will be more crowded.

Driving at night

Even if you have slept during the day and feel fresh to start a long drive, when accounting for other drivers on the road, it’s going to be more dangerous driving during the night time. As a result, you’ll have to drive defensively and remain extra aware of other vehicles. 


  • Less traffic on the roads, and if we compare this to driving at peak times, you can knock hours off your drive time!
  • Less waiting at fueling stations when compared to driving during the day.
  • It will be easier to find parking at rest stops, including gas stations.


  • Statistics indicate that it’s up to three times safer to drive during the day than at night, especially between midnight and 6 am, where fatal car crashes are up to 3x higher.
  • In rural areas, there will be more wildlife to deal with on the roads.
  • Driver fatigue and lower visibility when compared to daytime driving.

Weather conditions 

In the Summer, starting an early drive can be the perfect way to reach your destination before soaring temperatures and traffic backups hit the roads. Although it’s generally recommended to start driving early in the day, this isn’t always the best idea.

For instance, if you’re starting in a location where it’s going to be foggy or icy on the roads at 6 am, but you know that this will clear by 11 am, then it’s going to be safer to start your drive at a later time.

The same applies if there’s heavy rain, as this is known to alter driver perception, and continuous driving in darker conditions with impaired visibility isn’t recommended. 

Finally, weather conditions might completely change your driving plans. As an example, if you’ve planned a long drive but weather forecasts are predicting continuous days of icy and snowy roads, in this case, there might not be a best time to start your long drive, and you might have to put your driving plans on hold until things have cleared up. 

Driving long distances during the holiday season

Let’s run over the different holiday periods and detail the best times to start a long drive. 

The Fourth of July 

On the Fourth of July, the number of fatal car incidents steadily increases throughout the day as a result of more people consuming alcohol and taking to the roads.

Driving between 8 am to 4 pm is a safer period, as over 70% of alcohol-related fatal crashes occur after these times. Also, after you’ve had your fun during the day, it’s best to stop off somewhere overnight rather than making the drive home later in the day or at night.


As Thanksgiving is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November, most people are going to be on the roads on Wednesday evening, typically after working hours.

So for the best time to make a long drive during the Thanksgiving period, try to avoid driving on Wednesday night. 

Christmas and New Year

The Christmas season is widely known as being one of the most chaotic times of the year on the roads, and it’s expected that in excess of 110 million Americans travel distances of 50+ miles.

It’s also not always possible to start driving in the early morning, as you might be expected to arrive at your destination at a certain time. 

According to AAA, they reported that the best times to travel are:

  • On the 23rd: Before 2:00 PM, After 8:00 PM 
  • On the 24th: Before 11:00 AM, After 7:00 PM
  • Between the 26th and the 30th: Before 2:00 PM, After 8:00 PM

On the 31st of December and the 1st of January, minimal traffic is expected, so you’ll be fine to drive throughout the day on New Year’s Eve. 

Use Google Maps

Google Maps is six times more popular than other mapping platforms. Whatever time of the day you’re driving, it can assist you along the way. 

It works by using various data sources to provide real-time feedback to users, such as estimations on travel distance and time and traffic congestion updates, and gives voice directions.

It also provides traffic data for multiple routes, so while you might be driving the shortest route for your journey, if any sudden changes in traffic patterns occur, it will quickly update you on this so you can switch routes and save time. 

Additionally, it offers details about points of interest. This includes gas stations and their prices, and other points of interest such as restaurants, providing reviews, photos, and even information on their busiest periods throughout the day.


As can be expected, there are both benefits and drawbacks when starting a long drive at different times of the day. From an objective standpoint, it’s more practical to drive in the early mornings to avoid rush hour traffic, but this isn’t always the case.  

For instance, if you’re used to sleeping during the day, or are a night owl, when compared to someone who may be tired and ready for bed by 8 pm, your preferred driving time might differ. All in all, it’s important to start your drive when you feel at your best and plan accordingly beforehand. 


AVVO: Average day of accidents in America (link)

NEWSROOM: Away from Home for the Holidays (link)