Solo road trips can lead to an epic journey of self-discovery and adventure or… turn into an absolute disaster out of a horror movie. Basically, your mileage may vary. Whether you’re taking a solo road trip because you enjoy your own company or out of necessity, there are steps you can take to make sure you stay safe while driving alone.
In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about staying safe while riding solo – from preparing for a safe drive, to taking out the right short term car insurance if you’re borrowing a car, to taking precautions while on the road.
And if you’re here for a specific bit of wisdom, we’ve even included a handy table of contents to help you navigate the onslaught of gold dust that’s on this page.
- How to stay safe when driving alone
- Preparing for a safe drive
- Driving safely and avoiding dangerous situations
- What to do if you breakdown at night
- Staying safe while driving alone
Preparing for a safe drive
When it comes to driving alone, preparation is key. If you prep right, you’ll be ready for most things solo driving can throw at you, and you’ll be a little calmer as a result.
Plan your route
Before setting off, make sure you plan your route. Use Google Maps to work out how long it’s going to take you to get to your destination and what the best route is. If it’s a longer journey, ensure you’ve pencilled in a couple of service stops to refuel. Both your car and yourself will likely need a little R&R if the journey is particularly long.
The Highway Code suggests you should stop for at least 15 minutes every two hours to ensure you’re fit to drive. That’s the minimum recommended break, but you might find you need longer breaks if you’re on a particularly long drive. You’ll want to bake some breaks into your itinerary, so make sure you take this into account when working out the trip’s duration.
Arrange short term car insurance if needed
If you’re borrowing dad’s Jeep for the solo road trip of a lifetime, then short term car insurance could give you comprehensive cover for as long as you need it. At Zixty, for instance, cover starts from an hour but can last up to a few weeks, so you’re sorted for the duration of your journey.
It’s super easy to arrange and manage too. You can get a quote and buy a policy online or via our app. Plus, if you do it via the app, we’ll save your details so you can easily take out a policy again if you need it.
Basically, if you need short term car insurance, make sure you get a quote and sort it before you hit the road. Our insurance can start in as little as five minutes, so there’s really no excuse.
Make sure your car is roadworthy
Before setting off, make sure your car is in good condition and up to date with its servicing. Also, fuel up. It sounds obvious, but if you’re on a long journey and you’ve underestimated how far away the next service station is, you could run out.
It’s also a good idea to check your tyres, brakes, lights, and oil levels before you start driving. You don’t want to end up stranded at the side of the road, by yourself, waiting for breakdown services to arrive.
That being said, you’ll still probably want to arrange breakdown cover if you’re planning on taking a solo journey just in case. If you’ve got Zixty short term car insurance, that’s an add-on you can purchase easily and access in-app. But if not, you might need to make separate arrangements.
Pack an emergency kit
If you’re going to be driving solo, you want to make sure you’ve got a solid emergency kit in case you break-down. Now, you can buy pre-packed emergency kits online, but they can be pretty bare bones.
Putting together your own means you can tailor it to your needs (and the needs of your car too). Here is a non-exhaustive list of things you might want to include in your solo drive emergency kit. But also, you might think some items on here are a bit overkill. That’s fine too. You just pack whatever you think will be helpful to you in an emergency.
- Jumper cables
- Tow rope
- High-vis jacket
- Foot pump
- A map
- A cosy fleece
- Snow shovel
- Drinking water
- Power bank (for your phone)
- First-aid kit
- Small fire extinguisher
- Glass hammer
- Paracetamol or a similar OTC painkiller (for the raging stress-induced headache)
Once you’ve packed your emergency kit, make sure you put it in the boot of your car ready for your trip. You don’t want to end up leaving it on the kitchen counter having fully intended to grab it right before you set off.
Driving safely and avoiding dangerous situations
Driving alone is all about staying out of dangerous situations. Truth be told, you never want to get into a road rage situash anyway. Or drive at night unless you have to. But things can get even stickier if you’re all on your own. So you need to be extra careful and make arrangements to ensure you’re staying as safe as you possibly can.
Avoid driving at night
A staggering 40% of all road accidents in the UK happen at night. Given that most driving happens during the day, this is actually quite a high number. Approximately 20% of collisions on the motorway happen because the driver has fallen asleep behind the wheel.
The moral of the story? Avoid driving at night if you can. And if you can’t, make sure you’re not tired. If you start feeling tired behind the wheel, then pull over when it’s safe to do so. Ideally, at a service station where you can grab some coffee and have a power nap before you set off.
But if you’re really struggling even after your power nap, then it might be a good idea to find a hotel nearby and spend the night. You don’t want to risk a serious accident for the sake of the cost of a night at a hotel and a few hours added to your journey.
Avoid escalating road rage situations
Did you know that one in three drivers in the UK reported they’ve had a face-to-face road rage altercation with another driver? Road rage is pretty common these days apparently. But getting verbally (or physically) abusive is never a good idea.
If someone looks visibly upset or aggressive, it’s best to stay in your car with the doors locked and simply not react. Nothing good can come from engaging.
If it’s safe to do so, let the angry driver pass. Don’t try to race them or tailgate them, because that’ll likely just make them even more upset. Simply don’t engage at all.
You can report the incident to the police afterwards. But for the time-being, your primary goal should be to remain calm and remove yourself from the situation as quickly and safely as possible.
Keep your doors locked
Whether you’re driving or parked somewhere, keep your doors locked at all times. It makes it much harder for a criminal, or a driver suffering from road rage, to get into your car and get to you if your cars are locked. It’s simple, really. Just lock up.
Park near other people
We know you don’t want to scratch your perfect ride. So sometimes you make your way to the far end of the car park where nobody else bothers to stop. You think you’re being so clever as you trek across the car park to get to the shop. And this kind of thing might fly in your little town, in broad daylight, on your weekly trip to Sainos.
But you’re not in Uppity-on-the-Posh in Highandmightyshire anymore, Frodo. So you better park your fancy ride near other people, somewhere well-lit where there is a lot of foot traffic. Because would you rather have your car dented or get robbed at knifepoint in a dodgy car park? We know which one we’d rather pick.
And if we come off as dramatic, good. The point is to illustrate the worst case scenario so you’re prepared for it. Because no one thinks it’ll happen to them until it does.
Check the backseat before you get in the car
If you’ve just popped into the Starbucks at the services to grab a dose of caffeine, make sure you’re doing your due diligence before you get in the car. We’ve all seen the horrific true crime documentaries on Netflix, after all.
We don’t mean to come off paranoid or sound like your mother, but for the love of all things holy, check the backseat before you get in the car. Make sure you haven’t got a stowaway in there. It takes seconds but it could save your life.
What to do if you breakdown at night
If there’s an issue with your car and you’re not near a service station, you might need to pull over on the hard shoulder and wait for breakdown services to attend. But how do you make sure you’re handling a breakdown in the dark safely?
Turn on your hazards and sidelights
If it’s dark out or visibility is poor, it’s a good idea to turn on your hazard lights as well as your front and rear sidelights. This gives other drivers the best chance of spotting your car and hopefully avoiding a collision.
Turn on your hazard lights as soon as you’re aware there’s a problem. That way, other drivers will know to get out of your way and treat you with caution.
Exit the vehicle from the left
Stop as close to the motorway barrier on the hard shoulder as you can. Before you exit, put on your high-vis jacket if you have it, and grab your phone and torch. Then, climb over the passenger seat and exit from the left.
Climb over the motorway barrier and stand as far away from moving traffic as possible.
Exiting from the right could put you in the way of oncoming traffic, and we wouldn’t want you to take your chances with 2 tonnes of steel heading towards you at 70 miles per hour.
Contact your breakdown provider
Use your phone to call breakdown services and get help. Let them know you’re on your own by the side of the motorway so they can hopefully prioritise you. It’s unsafe to try and repair the car yourself on the motorway, so just wait for breakdown services.
If you haven’t got cover, you’ll still be able to call breakdown services. But, you’ll probably need to pay for the callout.
If your phone isn’t getting signal (nightmare scenario), just walk to the nearest emergency phone to get help. They have them on the motorway, and they’re usually signposted by arrows. Then, just wait for help to arrive.
Staying safe while driving alone
Driving alone isn’t always ideal, but there are ways to keep yourself safe. Preparation is always key.
If your car’s in good working order and fuelled up, then you’re unlikely to face any major mechanical issues. But if you do, as long as you have your emergency kit, you’re likely to be just fine.
Make sure to set aside plenty of time for breaks so you don’t get stressed out and end up in a road rage altercation. All in all, planning in advance is a great way to keep yourself safe on the road while driving alone.