How to be safe on long journeys: don’t rely on assist functions

How to be safe on long journeys: don’t rely on assist functions

Long journeys can be treacherous, even for experienced drivers. If you have good driving habits, though, you’ll be safer and calmer on the road.

1. 7. 2020 Škoda World

Anticipation, concentration, a safe distance and good planning are the basic advice and good habits we should all learn, whether the journey ahead of us is long or short. But for long journeys, whether familiar or new, good planning is doubly important.

Think carefully about the journey, starting with the time you want to set off. Plan your breaks. And take a good look at the route and its surrounding area on a map before you go. “If something unexpected happens and you need to take a detour, say, you’ll feel less uncertain if you’ve studied the route beforehand,” says Karel Mulač, head of the Traffic Safety Team at ŠKODA AUTO. Check out the weather forecast as well before long journeys, so you don't get caught out.

Assist functions can lull you into a sense of false security

It’s extremely important not to be tired when you set off. A tired driver is a dangerous driver. If you’ve been up for 18 hours, say, you drive as though you had 0,5 per mille of alcohol in your blood. Microsleep can be a major danger on long and exhausting journeys. And it’s weary drivers who are most at risk, of course. “If you’re not a morning person, don’t set off on long journeys too early. And if you usually go to bed early, don’t plan a journey late into the night,” says Karel Mulač.

Accidents caused by microsleep often take place at high speed, so the consequences tend to be serious. Lots of cars have driver fatigue warning systems. “If the signal is activated, it’s time for a break – don’t take it lightly,” Mulač advises.

This leads on to another piece of advice – drivers should know everything about their cars, and that’s doubly true on long journeys. Learn about the technologies your car offers and make use of drive assist functions to help you, such as adaptive speed control systems or Travel Assist, which tells you what the current speed limit is. “Even a vigilant driver can overlook some information from his surroundings, and drive assist functions can help in that case. But it’s wrong to rely on them – remember, they’re supposed to assist, not to do the driving for you,” Mulač warns.

Karel Mulač
Traffic Safety Team at ŠKODA AUTO

In addition to camera data in the windshield, predictive cruise control now also processes data from the navigation system.

Light meals and podcasts

What you eat and drink before and during a journey can affect fatigue. Hunger influences your mood and ability to focus, so you shouldn’t drive on an empty stomach. “But before and during the journey, go for light, easily digested food that does not make the body work hard and tire you out,” Mulač advises. Drink plenty of liquid, because dehydration can cause concentration problems even if you’re at home on the couch.

Listening to podcasts will keep you on your toes during a long journey.

Even though concentrating on your driving is crucial on long journeys, there’s something to be said for some kind of distraction. But only the kind that allows you to focus on the road and traffic around you. “Long journeys can be monotonous, which makes it hard to concentrate. Listening to the radio or a chatty passenger can paradoxically help you concentrate,” Mulač says. If you’re listening to music, don’t choose anything too relaxing! Listening to audiobooks or various podcasts can be a good option. You can use your mobile phone to listen to your favourite songs or spoken word – you can connect it to your car’s system via Bluetooth.

Night driving

Night driving is a specific discipline. Traffic tends to be lighter at night, but visibility is much worse. Modern cars with advanced headlights help a lot, but even so here are a few more tips to make night driving easier. Make sure you use your full-beam lights properly, dipping them as soon as you see an oncoming car or approach another car from behind. Modern LED Matrix lights are a great help – they can automatically dim segments of the headlight that could dazzle other drivers.

ŠKODA SUPERB and the Smart Light Assist system - a very good helper at night, but only for alert drivers.

To avoid being dazzled by other cars, don’t look straight into their headlights. “Try to direct your gaze at the right-hand edge of the road,” Karel Mulač recommends. Your peripheral vision allows you to drive normally in that kind of situation and your eyes aren't hit by the full glare of the oncoming cars’ lights.

So before you set off to distant destinations, think and plan. Try to get a basic idea of the route, make sure you’re well rested and think about your cars’ functions that you might not use much but can come in handy on long trips. This advice will help you arrive safe and sound.