Traffic jams, unsecured luggage and microsleep are the specters of a long drive. Only those who plan well, will arrive relaxed at their holiday destination.

Whether the way is the goal or only serves to reach the holiday paradise – it should always be safe. Photo: Ueli Frischknecht / EyeM

One does not travel in order to arrive, but for the sake of travel itself.” This sentence was uttered by famous poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe in September 1788, in a discussion with Maria Karoline Herder. He knew what he was talking about. Only months before had he returned from his two-year Italian voyage, which took him as far as Sicily. In contrast with today, there was no choice between methods of transport in those days. There was nothing other than stagecoaches, and while these were a status symbol, they were still torturous for their passengers. Travel itself also presented plenty of dangers, be it from highwaymen or drunk coach drivers. In short, it was a true adventure.

Germany ranks 12th in the global congestion comparison

Nowadays we slip into the comfortable seats of our cars, enter the destination into the satnav, and get on our merry way – at least until we encounter traffic. According to the most recent traffic report by automotive association ADAC, drivers in Germany sat in 1.448 million kilometers of tailbacks in 2017. Yet Germany is nowhere near the worst in the most congested country rankings. According to the “Global Traffic Scorecard” by US traffic service provider INRIX, drivers in Germany “only” spend 30 hours in congestion and are thereby in 12th place in the international comparison. Thailand leads the pack with 56 hours. Russia, the USA, South Africa and the United Kingdom are also worse than Germany in the rankings.

The World’s Best Drives. Source: DEKRA

Nevertheless, the car is one of the most popular modes of transport for vacationing, especially for families with children. It is often less expensive and more flexible than flying, taking a train or ferry, and simultaneously offers more room for luggage. “Luggage” is also the keyword for that important pre-departure ritual of securing loads. This isn’t just a task for the drivers of heavy goods vehicles and vans, but private car drivers too. Calculations by DEKRA Accident Research have demonstrated that unsecured objects can attain impact forces of up to 50 times their actual weight in the event of an accident or sudden braking. A 300-gram smartphone may therefore exert forces of approximately 15 kilograms in an accident at 50 km/h.

A ten-kilogram suitcase has an impact weight of 500 kilograms in such a scenario. The consequences can be serious. Therefore, all objects that may present a hazard must be stored securely in the car. Heavy and bulky objects should be stored low down and close to the back seat. Lighter luggage should follow and fill the gaps. The compacted load should then be secured with lashing straps and nets.

Every tenth fatality in traffic caused by distraction

Two of the aforementioned items, smartphones and satellite navigation systems, can be hazardous for an entirely different reason – driver distraction. Even when using devices hands-free, the risk of accident increases during a phone conversation, as concentration is no longer primarily focused on the surrounding traffic conditions. “Unfortunately, too many drivers remain unaware of how dangerous it is to use a smartphone while driving,” says DEKRA Board ­Member Clemens Klinke. Studies and estimates from Germany and the USA now assume that every tenth traffic fatality can now be attributed to distraction. The consequences can be as grave as those of a microsleep. Five seconds of inattention at 50 km/h equates to 70 meters of driving blind.

A Ford T-Bird is parked near coloured cliffs on Route 66 in Laguna, New Mexico. Photo: Car Culture

On the subject of microsleeps, only those that are alert when setting off and take regular breaks reduce their vulnerability to this hazard. The importance of ensuring that the vehicle is in a good mechanical condition, and having it inspected in good time before setting off on vacation should be self-evident. Similarly, one should not neglect to consider insurances and identification, as well as inform oneself of foreign road rules such as speed limits.

If pets are joining you on your journey, it is advisable to ensure compliance with current regulations such as required vaccinations and mandatory microchipping, and to acquire any necessary documentation. Armed with all of this, nothing can really go wrong. As Goethe once said: “A hasty departure brings a sorry return.” And nobody wants that.

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