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Preparing for a road trip: 10 things to check before you hit the road

27th Apr 2018 6:51 pm

Driving a long distance this summer for your holiday? Here are 10 things to know before you do.

First, let’s get the obvious out of the way – get your car serviced and make sure everything is as it should be; top up or replace oils, coolant, lights, wiper blades and tyres; and carry all your car’s documents. Okay, now that we are now done with that, let’s talk about some not-so-obvious guidelines to make your drive safer and more comfortable.

  • This is the most important point in this article. Everyone in the car, including rear-seat passengers, must be belted up at all times. Not only can it save your lives in an accident, it will also save you from getting bruised if you speed over an unmarked speed breaker (found aplenty in India) and hit your head on the roof or those hand grips over the windows.
  • It’s always good to have a second driver, just in case you fall ill on the way or get tired. You wouldn’t want your passengers to get stuck in the middle of nowhere, is there is no one else to take over. This is especially important if it’s a long drive, or a challenging one, like the drive to Ladakh.
  • Carry a spare key, but don’t keep it in the glove box or in a bag stored in the boot. Keep it with you, but don’t keep both the keys together. It’s a good idea to let someone else hold on to the spare key.
  • Carry a couple of old newspapers as they make excellent window cleaners and also act as effective carpets for muddy shoes.
  • Preserve the toll receipts till the end of the trip. That’s because if you are stopped by the authorities for driving an out-of-state registered vehicle, the toll receipts will prove that you are passing through and not a permanent resident of that state. Yes, your driving license and car papers should prove that, but keep the toll receipts too as another line of defence. 
  • Follow all the rules of traffic. You wouldn’t want to get your license confiscated by the traffic police so far away from home. Also, some places might have particular rules that you may be unaware of. For example, in Chandigarh you can be fined for smoking while driving. Motorists have been stopped by the Gujarat traffic police for not having a yellow strip on their headlamp. In Karnataka, pillions are prohibited on bikes with less than a 100cc engine capacity.
  • If you want to reach your destination faster, making fewer stops is more efficient than stepping on the throttle. So try and minimise your stops if you want to make time. Carry liquids and snacks to have on the go. Though you will find fuel pumps along all major national highways, finding pumps on state roads might not be so easy. Get your tank topped once the needle drops below half a tank. Actively scout for a pump if your fuel level drops to a quarter of the tank. Also remember that all pumps will have diesel, but some of them may not have petrol.
  • Here’s a rough rule of thumb to plan your drive with respect to the time it will take. On the highway, you will take an hour for every 50km, so a 200km drive should take about four hours. This is just an approximation. And while on the subject of planning your drive, it’s a good idea to leave at first light, as the traffic is lighter and the weather will be better. Moreover, it will give you a buffer time in case you have a breakdown or a puncture.  
  • While we have some fantastic roads criss-crossing the country, what’s missing are clean washrooms. While it may not be too much of an issue for men, it can be a real issue for women. So when you come across a clean washroom, make use of it because you don’t know when you will find the next one. And yes, carry toilet paper. ‘Leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but photographs’. Don’t throw anything out of the car. Please keep a bag inside for all your waste and dispose it when you reach your destination. 
  • That brings us to the most important point in this article. Indian roads are the most dangerous in the world. It’s a fact, accept it. Vehicles will come at you from the wrong side, bikers will suddenly swerve across the road in front of you, there will be unmarked obstructions, pedestrians and animals will jump out on the road from behind bushes and no amount of shouting profanities at them will help. What you can do is stay vigilant every moment. Leave your ego and anger at home. Keep yourself calm and patient. Remember, you want to have a nice holiday and not spend your time at the police station, a workshop or a hospital. Have a safe driving holiday.

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