Highway Driving Safety
Preparing for The Trip on A Highway

Highway Driving Safety: Planning The Route & Preparing for The Trip

Updated May 15, 2019

If your journey involves using unfamiliar limited access highways, planning your route ahead of time is essential. Mapping out your trip in advance will minimize stress and ensure you do not miss vital exits on the freeway. There are some other pre-trip preparations you should consider when traveling on major highways – including readying your vehicle – which are discussed in this section.

Planning the route

It is important to familiarize yourself with the route you will be taking before setting off, especially if you have not used these exits or specific stretches of highway previously. Without prior planning, you may miss an important highway turn off or endanger yourself (and everyone around you) by exiting the highway too hastily.

Many drivers make the mistake of thinking it is not necessary to map out a route if they have a GPS system installed in the car or an internet mapping application available on their cell phone. Remember, these methods of navigation are not always reliable! If one of these electronic navigation systems fails and you did not pre-plan your journey, you could be in serious trouble.

In planning your journey, figure out which highways and exits you will be using and note down their numbers, along with the approximate distance between each milestone and alternate routes should any highways be closed. You should also look at the overall distance of your journey and figure out approximately how much gas you will need, and whether it will be necessary to refuel along the way. Finally, note down places where you can stop to rest, eat and refuel your vehicle.

Choosing the best time to travel

Stretches of highway that pass near cities and other major populations will likely become congested around morning and afternoon rush hour. Take this into consideration when planning your journey and avoid these times or allow more time to reach your destination.

Preparing the vehicle

It is good practice to give your vehicle a quick health-check before setting off on any journey, but particularly important when preparing to travel long-distance. When preparing your vehicle before a trip:

  • Check your fuel and oil levels.
  • Check your tire pressure.
  • Make sure your lights are working.
  • When carrying a large amount of luggage, make sure the weight is spread out evenly around your vehicle – especially if you will be traveling in a hilly or mountainous area.

You may also wish to keep an emergency kit in your car with some essential items, in case you break down. This could include food, water, battery jumper cables, a torch, a spare tire and the necessary tools for changing it. In very cold weather, you should also pack warm clothing such as gloves, a hat, a heavy jacket and snow boots. Having these items on hand could save your life in an emergency!

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Important Driving Practices

This section summarizes those must-know highway driving techniques and safety practices. Organized into an easy-to-follow checklist, this information can be printed off and revisited as often as needed; you may wish to read through it again before taking your car onto a freeway.

Dealing with Highway Emergencies
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Avoiding Highway Emergencies

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Driving in Work Zones

The term “work zone” refers to any area on a public road where utility, construction or maintenance work is being conducted. There may be barriers, cones, heavy equipment, temporary signs, signal lights and workers in the roadway, prior to, during and beyond work sites. Nearly all states have chosen to discourage dangerous driving around high-risk work zones by increasing or doubling the fines incurred by traffic violations.

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Choosing A Lane on A Highway

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Highway Driving Maneuvers

Making any maneuver on a highway will put you at risk, as the high density of traffic and high speeds involved leave little room for error and a small window of time in which to act in response to a threat. The key to maneuvering safely on an expressway is maintaining enough space around your vehicle, keeping up with the flow of traffic and scanning ahead for potential dangers.

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Special Highway Areas

While using highways, you may encounter areas which require different driving behaviors, or where a different set of rules apply. Understanding how areas like HOV lanes and toll booths must be used will help you to stay out of danger and avoid getting a ticket.

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Exiting a Highway

While exiting a highway is nowhere near as difficult or intimidating as entering one, there is still a lot that can go wrong. Learning how to exit a highway safely is a skill like any other you will learn in preparation for your driver’s exam. It will not require you to merge with traffic as you do when entering the highway, though it still deserves considerable attention.

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Highway Construction Zones

Highway construction zones present additional risks to drivers and the construction workers themselves. You may encounter signs, signal devices, cones and traffic control personnel, all in place to warn motorists and guide them around the work zone safely. Slow down is the number one rule. Keep an eye out for speed limit signs and workers occupying the road.

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Highway Driving Safety

There are additional rules, safety tips and considerations which all drivers must keep in mind when using limited access highways. A great deal can be done to minimize the risk of being involved in a highway accident – though we cannot eliminate that risk altogether. This vital conclusion to our highway driving section reiterates the safe highway driving practices you must adhere to, discusses the importance of planning for your trip and teaches you how to handle an emergency on the highway.