One of the joys of summer is taking long road trips out to far-flung provinces. But for Manileños used to walking-pace traffic, the open highway can be daunting. Here are a few tips to keep the experience safe and to help you have a stress-free drive.
1) Keep your car ready
Breakdowns on the highway are dangerous. Make sure your belts, hoses, battery, and brakes are all in good order. Properly torqued lug nuts and properly inflated tires (nothing under 30-35psi on the highway, please) are also a must. Underinflated, dry-rotted, or worn tires can lead to a blowout on the highway, which can have really nasty consequences.
2) Stay away from the big boys
If a bus is tailgating you, either pull over to let him pass or give him space to go around you. Whatever the crash rating of your car, it’s not built to withstand a 10-ton steamroller running over it. Also, stay away from trucks. Truck tires can kick up debris that can damage your windshield. And when one of those tires blows at 100psi, the shrapnel can be deadly.
3) Mind your speed
It takes 40m for a loaded SUV to stop from 80kph. At 100kph, it's 50m. At 160kph, it can take over 100m to come to a complete stop. That’s over 20 car lengths. Think of that the next time you’re speeding through traffic.
4) Not too slow, either
If you’re going below the minimum speed limit, on the other hand, you risk one of those overloaded SUVs or buses plowing right into you.
5) Mind your distance
Aside from stopping distance, there’s also reaction time to consider. It takes an alert professional driver between 0.5-1 second to respond to an obstacle and hit the brakes. Regular humans, distracted by GPS navigation, in-car entertainment, and passengers, can take 2–4secs before realizing the need to stop, adding another 100m to your total stopping distance.
This is the reason for the two-second rule. Staying at least two seconds (about twelve car lengths at 100kph) behind the car in front gives you precious time to react.
6) Don't distract yourself
Reaction times are a good reason not to use your smartphone on the highway. Don’t be stupid.
7) Be observant
Watch those fast drivers weaving in your mirrors and those slow ones tailgating trucks or angling for exit ramps up ahead. Reading their actions can clue you in on what they’re going to do next, allowing you to avoid possible accidents when they suddenly swerve or stop. Also, occassionally scan the sides of the road for crossing animals and rock-throwing juveniles. You never know...
8) Stay in the proper lane
The middle and middle-right lanes are the safest on the highway. Away from the crush of quick-moving cars on the left, and away from the trucks sticking to the right lane. Sticking to the middle also gives you more choices in case of an emergency.
9) Have an exit strategy
When traffic is close and fast-moving, pull back a bit to give yourself space to maneuver. Identify exit lanes that you can dive into in case of an emergency. This could save your life if you find yourself in the middle of a multi-car pile-up.
10) In an emergency, get out of the flow of traffic
A flat tire or a popped radiator hose does not need to be fixed right here, right now. Pull over to the side first and get out of the flow of traffic. Limp to the nearest emergency bay if you can. Likewise, watch oncoming traffic and assess if you have enough space to safely get out or if you need to wait for emergency services to give you a tow. Your life is worth more than any repair bill.
11) Keep those emergency numbers handy
Having the hotline number for the Highway Patrol Group or expressway patrols handy can help ensure that if you ever do get into an accident, help won't be far behind.
12) Don't forget to rest
If you’re feeling tired, sleepy or even just a little bit irritable, a quick stop to rest and replenish will help restore your energy and mood. Remember, a cranky driver is a dangerous driver. This also helps ensure a stress-free trip for you, your passengers, and everyone else on the highway.