Road Trip Safety: Driving Smarter In Unfamiliar Places

by Julia on November 18, 2019

Decades of research shows that the majority of car accidents occur within 5 miles of home. Those first or last few minutes are the true danger zone. What happens when you’re far from home on unfamiliar roads, though? That too can pose a risk, though often for different reasons – and no one wants to be involved in a car accident while on vacation. If you’re planning a road trip for your next vacation, consider these 4 factors first. Driving has its pleasures, but it also has its risks.

Know Your Vehicle

One major consideration when deciding if you should drive during your next trip is whether or not you can drive your own vehicle. Driving your own car on unfamiliar roads is hard enough, but driving a rental is even harder. If you do plan to rent a car at your destination and drive, request a rental model you feel comfortable driving. You should also ask about added technology, such as parking and lane assist sensors if you think they will help, and consider whether the vehicle is well suited to issues such as parking in busy cities or traveling on unpaved, rural roads.

Check Local Laws

Road rules vary from place to place, as do laws about car accidents and fault. In New York City, for example, you can’t turn right at a red light, though this is common in many other locales. Knowing these basic rules, which are unlikely to be marked, can save you a lot of stress and keep you out of trouble, though if you’re uncertain, your best bet is to drive more cautiously.

Some people feel more comfortable driving in areas that have more forgiving laws around car accidents and fault. Colorado has a modified comparative negligence law, which means that if you’re involved in a car accident in Colorado, you can sue for damages as long as you’re less than 50% at fault. Just knowing that you may have that little bit of extra coverage can help ease your anxiety about driving in a new place.

Consider The Environment

Most people don’t vacation in the suburbs. No, they travel to big cities or, alternatively, to rural areas, each of which comes with unique driving challenges. Driving in big cities can be especially difficult and you should consider factors like whether you feel comfortable driving around a lot of pedestrians, cyclists, and even e-scooter riders. Most also have ample public transit that allows you to explore the area without the responsibility – and pricy burden – of a car. Just parking in a city can be very expensive.

Use GPS Judiciously

If you’re driving in an unfamiliar place, one of the most important safety precautions you can take is reviewing your route. Look for any indications that there’s construction going on, memorize key places where you’ll turn, and identify landmarks you might be able to use to guide you, even if you’re going to be using GPS. Many of the most dangerous moments during unfamiliar drives happen when the driver sees they’re about the miss a turn and reacts abruptly. Avoid this by leaving yourself plenty of time to get to your destination; if you’re about to miss a turn, keep going and then turn around rather than turning suddenly.

Everyone feels differently about driving in unfamiliar places and it all comes down to individual temperament and the nature of the trip. Consider all your transit options and talk to your companions – in this day and age, there’s almost always another option besides driving if all you need is to get from point A to point B.

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