Did you know that the US Interstate System is a staggering 48,053 miles long? That’s more than six times the earth’s equatorial diameter! So, it’s no wonder that the interstate accounts for 25.1% of the entire nation’s road travel.
As impressive as the interstate is, it’s also home to some of the US’s most dangerous roads. Arizona alone had 1.09 highway fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled in 2018. During that year, the national average was 0.58 deaths.
Large vehicles are among the things that can make driving on the interstate risky. After all, many of the 12.5 million buses and commercial trucks in the US use these highways.
With that said, there are several steps you can take to maneuver the interstate safely. Read on, as we’ll share with you some of the top ways to stay safe on these long stretches of roads.
Whether you’re going on a road trip or driving long-distance to a business meeting, be sure your ride is up to it. All your tires (including spares) should have proper pressure and adequate tread depth. It’s also smart to have your wheels checked for alignment before you hit the interstate.
Next, make certain to top up all your fluids, including motor oil, brake fluid, coolant, and wiper fluids. If you haven’t changed your filters, now’s the best time to do so. Be sure your horn, fuses, and all lights are in perfect working condition.
All these prep steps can help you avoid getting into an accident on the highway due to vehicle failure. So that you know, these malfunctions led to an estimated 44,000 road crashes from 2005 to 2007.
Check the weather forecast every day, for at least five days prior to an interstate driving trip. Five-day forecasts are often 90% spot-on, as opposed to 10-day forecasts that only have a 50% accuracy. If it does rain on the day you’re driving, consider rescheduling or, at least, go slower once you’re on the road.
Weather-related risks often go overlooked as they’re not as “common” as distracted driving. Despite that, they’re still among the biggest causes of motor vehicle accidents. Wet roads and large puddles can make your tires hydroplane, in which they lose all grip and traction.
Have you heard of the term “highway hypnosis” or “white line fever?” It’s kind of like a driver on an “autopilot mode”; operating a vehicle in a trance-like condition. Either way, it can make a person drive a vehicle for long distances and forget that they just passed 20 miles or so.
Highway hypnosis is dangerous because it’s a sign of fatigue, which can lead to drowsy driving. Drowsy driving, in turn, causes an estimated 100,000 to 328,000 motor vehicle collisions each year. Nearly a third of these results in injuries and almost 6% of them are fatal.
So, driving after getting seven to nine hours of sleep is one of the best ways to avoid accidents on the interstate. In fact, you should abide by this regardless of the road you plan to use.
It’s also best to take “safety stops” after every 100 miles or two hours of non-stop driving. These stops can help you take a breather to refresh your “bored” mind or free it from an altered mental state.
There’s no uniform interstate speed limit; states have varying maximum speed limits. For example, South Dakota’s urban interstate limit is 80 mph, which isn’t the same in most other states. In fact, in Colorado, the fastest you can go on an urban interstate is 55 mph.
So, make sure you research the laws of the specific state interstate you plan to use beforehand. However, it’s still best to keep your odometer’s pin a few notches lower than the limit. Just because it’s legal to go 75 mph doesn’t mean you should, especially if you aren’t used to that kind of speed.
Bus and truck accidents are some of the most fatal, considering such vehicles’ size and weight. While their drivers aren’t always at fault, they’re often automatically held liable. After all, CDL drivers have more legal duties, such as factoring in their vehicle’s blind spots.
Now, this doesn’t mean that an accident with a truck always frees the other driver of liabilities. The non-CDL driver could be at fault if they breached the interstate’s driving laws. A perfect example is driving while texting, which on many state highways, is illegal.
So, for everyone’s safety, keep both eyes on the road and both hands on your steering wheel. To avoid the temptation of answering a text or call, turn on your phone’s “Don’t Disturb While Driving” mode. With this, you can restrict, limit, or silence incoming messages and calls.
iOS phones have this as a built-in feature, which you can enable via Settings. If you have an Android phone, you can download apps that will give your phone access to a similar feature.
Some states, like Illinois, Kansas, and Maine, have “keep right” laws. In these states, it’s the law to stay on the right lane if you don’t intend to pass or make a left turn. If you get caught doing such, you may either get a fine, a ticket, or both.
Even if you’re driving on an interstate without such a law, do your best to stay in the right lane. This is in consideration of drivers who need to use the left lane to pass or turn left. Otherwise, you might force them to make a dangerous turn, or you may end up causing traffic.
Safety is a top priority when driving on the interstate, but be considerate of buses and trucks, too. Don’t cut it too close when you’re behind a large vehicle, and pay attention to the road and your surroundings. Sleep well the night before, and most importantly, don’t use your phone as you whizz by the highway.
All these can make your interstate driving experiences safer and more enjoyable.
Speaking of driving, be sure to check out our guide on what to do if your car breaks down in the middle of the road!
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