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Everyone loves a good road trip. Driving down hundreds of miles with good music and great company can make for some of the most amazing adventures. And hey, then it’s not always about the destination that’s important, sometimes the best part of the trip is the journey itself. However, it’s good to know a few road-trip tips and tricks, such as how often you should stop to take a break, as nonstop road trips can be dangerous

Road at sunset in Yellowstone
Road Trip At Sunset | Nano Calvo/VWPics/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

How often should you stop?

The general rule of thumb is to stop for 15 minutes after every two hours of driving. This is good for you to just take a breather, stretch, and relax for a bit. Driving is intense work, and if you don’t get tired while doing it, you’re likely not paying enough attention. So give yourself time to step away from the wheel.

If you’re worried about long drives because you think your car can’t handle it, don’t be. Engines, especially diesel engines, were born to run (obligatory Bruce Springsteen reference). Just make sure your car is road trip prepared. Obviously, you don’t want to run out of gas, so be sure to refill before that happens. But unless you drive an overheating jalopy, you should be alright.

What happens if you don’t stop?

Car Driving Down Empty Desert Highway
Car Driving Down Empty Desert Highway | Matthew Williams-Ellis/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

The keyword in the equation is that you “should” stop. While I don’t condone unsafe driving practices, such as driving while exhausted, it’s important to be realistic. Most folks going on long road trips, myself included, only stop when the car needs gas. But not stopping for long periods of time can take a toll on your body in the long run.

CDS Drivers explains that veteran truck drivers, who haul cargo for up to 11 hours at a time, often experience sharp pains on the right side of their bodies. It can range from a slight pain in the lower back to a stabbing pain down their whole leg. This is known as sciatic nerve pain. If you’re young and spritely, you don’t have to worry about this yet. But if you’re on the older side, the chances of developing sciatic nerve pain grow higher. And if you’re obese or have diabetes, your odds don’t get any better.

So depending on where you are in life, it’s best to make stops as needed. Don’t push yourself while driving, as that’s a common road trip mistake that leads lapses in judgment and can make your road trip dangerous. It’s not something to take lightly, so stop when you need to, even if it’s just to stretch.

Where are the best places to stop on road trips?

Rest Stop In Naples, Florida off I-75
Rest Stop In Naples, Florida | Jeffrey Greenberg/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Going on a Road Trip? Make Sure You Look at This Checklist

My number one pick is to stop at a rest stop. Stopping to rest is what they’re built for (hence the creative name) and are usually protected at night. But they’re scattered across the interstate system, so unless you have a co-pilot or just happen to stumble upon one, they’re tricky to coordinate. You can find a map of each rest stop at the Interstate Areas website. So, if you can, be sure to plan ahead.

However, if you can’t find one of those, a large gas station such as TA or Pilot, the kind that offers truck fuel, would be the next best bet. While officers might not be on patrol while you step away from the car, there’s enough hustle and bustle that committing a theft would be hard to do. And you can get gas, so it’s a win-win!

If neither of those is an option, hotels like Comfort Inn are often a great choice as well. They offer clean bathrooms, lit up parking lots, and space to walk around. Just do your research, as there are plenty of places to pull over and even sleep through the night, but the moral of the story is to take breaks as needed.

Getting sloppy while road tripping dangerous for everyone, and the long-term health effects of constantly stepping on the throttle can be avoided by stopping for a bit. Take care of yourself by taking breaks, it’ll make the trip all the better.