How to Safely Make the Most of a Long Drive

Spending hours on the road? Here's how to be smart—and safe—behind the wheel.

two women with smartphone seated on open SUV hatchback plan road trip
Program your stops in your navigation app or GPS system before you head out.
James Bueti

According to a study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, U.S. drivers spend an average of 21,973 minutes behind the wheel each year. That's more than nine 40-hour workweeks. Here's how to use that time productively without compromising safety.

Navigate the nav system.

Your GPS system or navigation app will save time by getting you to your destination more efficiently. Learn how to use it before you leave, and program your stops in advance. If you have a passenger, put then in charge of directions.


Pass on primping.

It can't be glossed over: Personal grooming such as applying lip balm or combing hair while you drive is a no-no. So is eating behind the wheel. Both increase your odds of getting into a crash, and both can wait.

Be smart about smartphones.

Think your drive is a good time to catch up with friends and family by phone? Think again. Using handheld phones behind the wheel is illegal in many states, and even hands-free calls aren't risk free. According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, test subjects needed up to 27 seconds to refocus on driving after ending a hands-free phone conversation. Bottom line: Don't gab on the go.

Listen and learn.

Audiobooks and podcasts can help the commute fly by. Just don't fiddle with them while you drive. Start your program before you begin your trip, then leave it alone until you've arrived at your stop. Taking your eyes off the road for more than two seconds doubles your risk of a crash.

This article was first published in May 2017 and was last updated in May 2024.