How Many Hours is it Safe to Drive in One Day?

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How long you can safely plan to drive in a day is a crucial question to ask yourself when planning a road trip?

This question is important for both planning purposes as well as safety.

When planning our first long road trip to Southern Utah, we were curious how long we should plan on driving each day. We were new to long-distance road trips and didn’t know how long we should plan on driving each day.

Yes, we knew we could keep ourselves occupied during our drive with our favorite podcasts and road trip games. But we weren’t sure how many days it would take us to get to our destination. 

So we researched how long we could safely expect to drive each day, and below is a summary of what we found.

Let’s dive into this important long-distance driving tip.

How Long Can You Safely Drive a Day?

A good rule of thumb is to expect to safely drive 8 hours each day of your road trip.

8-hours a day is less than the 10 hours a day regulation that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration requires passenger-carrying drivers to follow. 

But we think that estimating 8 hours of driving each day is perfect when planning your road trip with all the variables we mention below.

Therefore, when planning your road trip, you can estimate 8 hours a day of driving time for those days dedicated to driving.

Disclaimer: 8 hours a day is a recommendation. It’s up to you to know yourself and stop anytime you feel that you can no longer safely drive. 

How Far Can You Drive in 8 Hours?

With 8 hours being a good rule of thumb for how long you can safely drive, now the question is:

How far can your drive in 8 hours?

The answer depends on your speed and how often you stop.

Let’s say you are traveling an average of 65 miles per hour and stop for 15 minutes every 2 hours; you can estimate being able to drive 450 miles in 8 hours.

Factors That Affect How Far You Can Drive in a Day

Many factors can affect how many hours you can safely drive each day of a road trip.

Let’s look at what variables may impact how long you can stay behind the wheel each day of your road trip. 

Amount of Sleep

The amount of sleep you get during your trip plays a significant factor in how long you can safely drive each day. 

You run the risk of drowsy driving without adequate sleep, which is a quick way to end a fun road trip. 

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates, 697 deaths were attributed to drowsy driving in 2019. 

Therefore, getting adequate sleep before a day of driving is essential for a safe driving experience.

And if, for some reason, you didn’t get enough sleep to drive a long distance, here are some signs from the Sleep Foundation to look out for that will tell you it’s time to pull over.

  • Feelings of dozing off
  • Frequent yawning
  • Tired eyes, droopy eyes, or an increase in blinking
  • Drifting into other lanes or hitting “rumble strips” on the road
  • Inability to remember the last few miles
  • Missing a road sign or exit
  • Following other cars too closely
  • Difficulty maintaining proper speed

It’s legal to sleep in your car at many rest stops and locations along your route. So if you are ever feeling too drowsy to drive know that there are options for you to get some convenient and inexpensive shut-eye.

Weather Conditions

A major factor that can affect how far you can drive in a day is weather conditions. This can include things like heavy rain, snow, sleet, and thunderstorms.

The Federal Highway Administration estimates that weather conditions contributed to 22% of traffic accidents in 2017, making it a major factor to consider during a road trip.

Unfortunately, you don’t know what the weather will be like when planning your road trip months in advance. 

Therefore, if you know you will be traveling through an area with the potential for inclement weather, reduce your driving time estimate for the day. 

When you are about a week away from your trip, you can use weather apps to forecast road conditions when driving through different areas. 

Check out this list of our favorite weather apps specifically for road trips to help you plan a safe driving route. 

Road Conditions

The physical condition of the road you are driving on will affect how far you can drive each day. 

Things like potholes, construction, and bumpy roads take extra mental effort making them exhausting to drive for long periods at a time. 

For example, if you are driving north out of Las Vegas, you will encounter some stretches of Route 93 that are just dirt and gravel. Driving on these types of roads will affect how many hours you can safely drive each day.

Your GPS app will take the road conditions into account when estimating your driving time. So if you see that your estimated time to destination is longer than you’d expect for the mileage, road conditions may be the reason. 

Related Post:
How to Plan a Road Trip Using Google Maps

Time of Day

The time of day you are driving will affect how long you can drive. 

Driving during the nighttime hours makes you more susceptible to drowsiness. And because nighttime traffic is sparse, driving at night requires more mental and physical stamina on your part. 

If some of your driving hours are going to be after sunset, plan on driving less than you would during the daylight. 

And to manage fatigue that occurs when you drive during the night, stop driving when the sun goes down and sleep in a hotel or rest area for a few hours. Then, get back on the road after you have had some rest.

Physical Condition

You may not think that being in good physical shape can affect your ability to drive, but it does. Just think about the rigorous exercise routines of professional race car drivers.

When driving, you have to be of a certain physical fitness to have the strength and stamina required to make quick and decisive decisions.

When you are in good physical condition, you will be able to drive farther each day than you would be if you are battling health concerns. 

It’s up to you to understand the limitations you have for driving. Make sure to adjust the length of your driving days to accommodate how long you can drive safely. 

How Often Should You Take Breaks From Driving on a Road Trip? 

Driving for long hours is exhausting, which is why it is essential to take breaks during your road trip.

According to Drivingtests.com, a good rule of thumb is to take a break every 2 hours of driving. These breaks can include stopping for gas or at a rest stop for a quick bite to eat and a stretch of the legs. 

A great way to get the blood flowing during your driving break is to bring a football or frisbee along and play catch during your break. This is also a great way to let the kids get out some energy before hopping back into the car. 

A simple break can make all the difference when you are safely arriving at your destination. It’s an easy way to ensure that you do not become fatigued and fall asleep behind the wheel.

You Got This

Once you have considered all the factors that affect how far you can safely drive each day, you can start to plan out your road trip.

If unsure how much driving to plan for each day, error on the side of caution and plan for less than you think you can drive. 

We hope this list helps you plan a safe and exciting road trip.

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