Weekend Athlete: Road Safety Tips

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The best thing you can do when you go to a race is go with someone. That way, if you get hurt, someone can take you to the hospital, drive you home and make sure you’re OK. And, hey, even if you don’t get hurt, you have someone to split the cost of gas with.

Whether you go alone or with someone, it’s also a good idea to let someone else know where you’re going and when you expect to be back, and you should definitely carry a cell phone. Even if it’s only an hour trip to the other side of town, it’s a good idea for someone to know where you are.

Sooner or later, though, you’ll probably have to drive to a race alone. Here are some things that I’ve found make the ride better, especially if you’re banged up:

1. Automatic transmissions. Yes, I prefer a stick shift for everyday use, but if you tweak your ankle you don’t want to be dealing with a clutch. And if you dislocate your shoulder, trust me, shifting gears is not going to be fun.

2. Navigation systems. Whether it’s a handheld GPS or a factory-installed option, not having to handle and fold a paper map can be a godsend. I’m a recent convert – I used to hate them – but after a recent trip when I, ahem, got a bit banged up, I realized the error of my ways.

3. Power seats. See above. It’s just easier to push a switch than grip and slide. Remember: You might need to adjust your driving position if you’ve got some bumps and bruises.

4. A soft touch on the stereo volume knob. Loud sounds — thumping bass or screaming guitars — can tire you out, and they’re certainly also a distraction. Save your energy and pay attention to the road.

5. Air conditioning. Yeah, I know, most cars have this, but what I’m saying is if you’re hot, hurting and miles from home, turn on the A/C and take the mileage hit. Driving is all about staying focused. If you overheat, focused is one thing you won’t be.

6. Credit card and common sense. Hurt? Tired? Facing a 20-hour drive? Don’t do it. Pull off, find a hotel and get some sleep. Yeah, you can often nap at interstate rest stops, but you’ll feel better and be safer after hours of uninterrupted sleep. This is especially true of athletes: You should’ve already pushed your body to failure before you got in the car, so you need the rest more than anybody else on the road.

Photo of Bill Jackson
Former assistant managing editor Bill Jackson manages the Research section, and he enjoys triathlons and cross-country skiing. Email Bill Jackson

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