Steer Clear Of These Reckless Mistakes During Your Next Road Trip

While jumping on a nonstop flight to the Caribbean may be on your bucket list, you don't want to neglect the once-in-a-lifetime destinations closer to home — but make sure to do it safely. While many people are anxious about plane crashes while boarding, there's a much higher risk of something going wrong behind the wheel than in the air. That's not to say you should put your dream road trip on hold. A road trip can be one of the most exciting, cost-effective, and fun ways to explore the world around you, either by yourself or with your family and friends.


If you take precautions, you can make sure your trip is unforgettable in the right ways. While accidents can happen to even the most careful and experienced drivers, there are a lot of things you can do to ensure you have the safest trip possible. Start by avoiding these common mistakes many roadtrippers make behind the wheel.

Focusing more on your GPS than the road

Today, a lot of people even use Google Maps on familiar roads to get to work and back, so it makes perfect sense that you would use it while driving in a brand-new place. There's nothing wrong with that — using satellite mapping makes planning a road trip easy and helps you avoid missing your exit on the highway. If what's happening on the screen is taking up more of your attention than what's happening on the road, however, it can be extremely dangerous.


Statistically, distracted driving causes more accidents than drunk driving does. If you're getting lost and need to reroute or even just want to add a quick trip through a drive-through to your itinerary, ask somebody who isn't driving to do it. If that's not an option, just wait until you can pull over. It's not worth risking your life or wrecking your trip with a dangerous and expensive accident to save a couple of minutes.

It's also worth noting that sometimes accidents are caused by over-relying on your GPS. While it's a great tool for getting you to your destination, there can be errors that send you down the wrong path. Stay focused, and if the directions you're getting from your mapping app seem like they're sending you into a dangerous situation, don't trust them over your instincts.


Driving when you're too tired

When you're first planning your road trip, it can be tempting to schedule as many stops as possible, which may help to avoid too many hours of nonstop driving in a row. If you can, try not to schedule yourself for long drives after a full day of hiking or sightseeing, either. As hard as it might be to imagine (before it happens to you), falling asleep at the wheel is common — and extremely dangerous. While you might not completely pass out, you could experience something called micro-sleep, which are moments of sleep that last just a couple of seconds. These can happen without you even noticing. When you're driving, those lost five seconds could be deadly.


Even if you can stay awake while driving, being exhausted makes you a worse driver. In fact, according to the National Safety Council, driving after being awake for 20 hours is just as bad as driving drunk. On a road trip, you likely won't be familiar with the roads, so the last thing you want is slower reaction time. If you're feeling tired, it's best to have a passenger take over, or just pull over and take a nap.

Driving at night

Even if you're not too tired to drive, you should avoid saving all of your driving for late in the day. You may be awake and alert, but other drivers might not be. As soon as the Sun sets, driving gets more dangerous. Far more accidents happen at night. Many drivers on the road are tired, it's harder to see, and people are more likely to be driving drunk.


If you have to drive at night, there are some things you can do to make it a little safer. Take a moment to clean your windshield, headlights, and mirrors. It's harder to see at night, so you should do whatever you can to make the road as clear as possible. Since you won't be able to see hazards as easily and there's more chance of other drivers on the road struggling to react quickly, you should also stay as focused as possible. Night driving is not the time to make up for lost time.

Driving in bad weather

You can plan your trip perfectly and still find yourself peering out of your windshield into dense fog or heavy rain. As frustrating as it is to have your trip delayed, especially if you're trying to make a hotel or campsite by nightfall, driving in bad weather can be risky. If it's raining hard, you should always slow down. The speed limit may say 60 mph, but in heavy rain, you risk hydroplaning and sliding off the road or into another car. Switch your headlights on, give yourself plenty of space between vehicles, and take it at your own pace. If there's flooding, pull over immediately and wait for conditions to improve.


Rain isn't the only risk. Depending on where your trip takes you, you could encounter all kinds of bad weather. If you're driving through a snowstorm, you should definitely slow down and even stop, if necessary, to keep snow from building up and blocking your view. If you're driving in fog, don't turn on your high beams, as it will only make it harder to see. Even wind can be a hazard if it's strong enough — especially if you're taking your road trip in an RV. With all unexpected weather conditions, if you feel like it's unsafe, wait it out. The road trip will be waiting for you when the storm stops.

Not checking your vehicle before you leave

A lot of planning goes into a road trip. Between scheduling your time off, coordinating everyone's schedule, and packing up the car, it's easy to forget a few things. Car maintenance shouldn't be one of them. To make sure your trip doesn't get derailed and you stay safe, there are a few things you should check before you rely on your car to take you hundreds of miles.


Ideally, you should have a mechanic look at your car before you leave to reduce the risk of any breakdowns derailing your trip. Prioritize having your brakes checked. Be sure your brake pads aren't too worn down and can survive the trip. At a bare minimum, you should take a look at the car yourself before hitting the road. Make sure the tires aren't worn down, and check the fluids before you head out.