People love to travel by taking road trips. Not only do you get to visit exciting locations, but it can also be a relaxing and fun experience just to be out on the open road. However, there are certain potential hazards you should be aware of—one of the most common being passenger distraction. While most people prefer to have company on a long trip, the nature of the company could play a large part in determining just how safe your holiday ends up being. The following are things all passengers should know before embarking on a road trip.
Before you embark on your trip, both the driver and the passengers should be familiar with the map, GPS system, and any other navigational tool you might be using. Both driver and navigator should have carefully studied the route and have a good idea of when they will arrive at their final destination. However, during the trip the passenger should have access to the navigation tools in case additional questions arise. The driver should never look at the map or GPS while driving, but should stay focused on the conditions of the road while the navigator gives vocal instructions. The navigator should be looking ahead and informing the driver of what to expect in coming kilometres.
In addition to taking charge of directions, the passenger can act as a second set of eyes. After travelling for hours on the same stretch of road, it is easy for drivers to become inattentive. Passengers can assist by keeping an eye out for important road signs, changes in traffic, or hazardous road conditions.
Both of the driver’s hands should be placed on the wheel at all times. This will help keep him or her prepared for hazards that may not leave much time for reaction. On long road trips however, drivers may get hungry or need to perform other functions. Passengers can help in this regard. They can find snacks and drinks and help the driver consume them in a safe way. They can change radio stations, switch to a new playlist, or adjust the volume on the car’s stereo system. They can also text, email, or call people if the driver needs to communicate with someone outside the car. The only thing the driver should be doing is driving, but the passenger can easily assist by acting as an extra pair of hands when necessary.
Road trips are often planned around seeing specific places. Travelling in a car allows you to see sights up close and personal. However, regardless of where you are the driver’s primary attention should be focused on the road. Passengers should never distract the driver by pointing out interesting sights located off of the road. Encouraging the driver to look away from the road—even for only a few seconds—can easily be enough to cause an accident. If it is something the driver would want to see, encourage them to pull over to a safe spot on the side of the road before giving it their full attention. Another option is to use different drivers when travelling to and from a location. That way if the driver misses something, they can still get a good glance on the way back.
No one likes to sit in a car and stare out the window for hours on end. As such, passengers often plan ways to keep themselves occupied during long road trips. While there is nothing wrong with this, it is important that their activities do not distract the driver’s attention. Any games that are being played by passengers in a car should be kept quiet; screaming and shouting will reduce the focus of the driver. Do not engage the driver in your games unless they are mild and allow the driver to stay focused on the road. Do not throw items around the vehicle. Keep music at a reasonable level.
When it comes to sleeping, create a system that you know will be safe. If there are several people in the car, stagger the sleeping arrangements so that there are always at least two people awake (the driver and one other person). If you are the only passenger, be careful to only nap when the driver is feeling fully fresh and awake, and don’t allow yourself to sleep longer than about thirty minutes at any one time.
On family road trips, passengers are often children who may not fully understand the importance of car safety. When kids are cooped up in small spaces for long periods of time, it is easy for them to become restless and irritated. This can be made worse when brothers or sisters are sitting in the backseat with them. If parents, including the driver, are forced to constantly look back and act as referees between their children, the likelihood of an accident is substantially increased. Therefore, it is important to establish rules for children before the trip ever begins. Let them know what type of behaviour you expect of them, and what rewards (or punishments) they can expect as a result of their choices. Incentives can play a big role in keeping children calm and quiet.
If you as a passenger notice a potential hazard on the road, do your best to communicate the danger in a calm and collected way. Yelling can frighten the driver and cause him or her to make a mistake. It can be difficult to stay calm in a stressful moment, but doing so could save lives.
It can be hard not to backseat drive, especially if you think you could be doing a better job than the driver. However, it more often than not leads to stress and arguments, which are the last things the driver needs. On long road trips drivers need to feel calm and relaxed, and stress increases the likelihood that mistakes will be made. If you are going to talk to the driver about his or her decisions, focus on the positive. Frequently assure him or her that they are doing a good job. If a change needs to be made, then discuss it in a respectful manner.