Family SUV all packed up like a jigsaw puzzle masterpiece. Check!
All kids and parents have made one last potty stop (“Billy…at least try to go!”). Check!
Everyone is buckled in with their respective entertainment devices and snacks. Check!
If your family is anything like mine, the “long family driving vacation” was commonplace and seemingly a right of passage of sorts. Many times folks make the time + distance + cost analysis with the result: “let’s just drive on through the night and save on that extra hotel night…not to mention the roads will be wide open,” besides the unmistakable line of truckers’ lights sharing the road.
The most obvious threat with many of these marathon family drives is driving too long without sufficient stops and rests, resulting in sleepiness and fatigue. Breaks are so important, commercial drivers are strictly regulated to keep a log book to document their required break times and limit their driving times. These “hours of service” are regulated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), a division of the U.S. Department of Transportation. In fact, these rules were updated on July 1, 2013, which I’ll discuss in another post to come [stay tuned!].
But even if you have limited your time behind the wheel and you’re mentally sharp as a tack, are there other calculated threats you can attempt to avoid with proper trip planning? Yes! Calculated threats? But I just said you are completely alert and ready for any danger. Oh, and you’ve checked the weather forecast and all’s clear! So, what is it then?
I’m talking about timing! Let me explain.
Unless you happen to be roaming the open road of places like rural Montana or Texas, you can’t hardly get into a vehicle in the United States and drive multiple hours from point A to point B without going through or near a major city of some size. Yes, a carefully calculated road-trip planner has already planned to avoid major metro areas around 7-9am and 4-6pm. That’s great! But I would strongly encourage another timing strategy to add to your calculations — here’s that calculated threats reference I just mentioned — the bar/party after-hours times of 1-3am.
Take, for example, the 7-car pileup that occurred around 3am Friday morning near Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) on I-75. A suspected drunk pedestrian walked onto the interstate which started the chain reaction crash. And of the seven cars involved in the crash, 5 arrests were made for DUI.
Sure, driving is dangerous, period. Bad, distracted, high, drunk, or otherwise incapable drivers can be and are on the road at any time. And certainly not just in urban areas. My point is to consider other factors in planning that long drive with your kids tucked safely in the back. You avoided that extra hour delay with proper timing to bypass rush hour traffic. Do other calculated threats warrant your same attention?
Maybe stopping early for dinner, a visit to a local historical landmark, and an extra night’s hotel stay isn’t so bad!