Road trips used to be a milestone and an American tradition. However, research now shows that people are driving less and getting their licenses later in life. Teens aren’t as desperate to get the “freedom” a car allows partially because it’s become so expensive and partially because so much of their social life is digital. However, once you get a taste for road trips, they can be addictive—but plenty can still go wrong.
We live in an era where distracted driving is a major issue, with studies showing that it can be just as dangerous as driving drunk. Even hands-free driving can be a distraction when drivers are focusing more on a conversation than the road. There are also other distractions like eating, listening to music, or drinking (non-alcoholic) beverages behind the wheel. The more people in the car, the longer the distance, and the how tired the driver is can lead to an increased chance of an accident.
Of course, the worst road trip of all is one where there’s a serious accident. Taking a road trip with children, teens, or extended family can really test your patience. Here’s one story of a terrible road trip that reinforces the idea that there really can be such a thing as too much family time:
Jeanne grew up in a small town in rural southern Oregon as an only child. She had extended family around the country including cousins in Seattle and a niece her age in San Francisco, but the family reunions were few and far between. When the stars (and calendars) aligned, Jeanne and three cousins—plus one three-year-old nephew—decided to meet in southern Oregon and road trip to Los Angeles by way of Las Vegas. An SUV was rented for space and comfort, and vacation days were used. What better way to bond with extended family than putting a bunch of twentysomethings in a car together for ten days?
The first two days were pleasant enough. Everyone in the car got a crash course in parenthood, including just how smelly a young child can be. Even though she swore he was potty-trained, it seems that long hours on the road can test anyone’s bladder. By the time the SUV was on a stretch of road in the desert, they discovered the package of diapers had gone missing. There weren’t any shops in sight, and they found out how many people it takes to create a makeshift diaper out of a tee-shirt (the answer is four).
The backroads to Las Vegas are filled with speed trap towns where the only stops with gas stations drop to a crawl at 20mph speed limits. Jeanne was at the wheel when she was pulled over going 60 mph on what felt like a highway but was actually a road with a 15mph speed limit. “I’m gonna do you a favor and put down you were going 40. Otherwise, that’s felony speeding,” the officer told her. Still, a $300 ticket on a new graduate’s budget didn’t feel like much of a favor.
Las Vegas with a toddler in tow means shows are cut short, nightclubs don’t happen, and plenty of dirty looks at the better restaurants. The crew discovered their bargain hotel was worth every penny, complete with smoky carpets and malfunctioning showers. Halfway between Las Vegas and L.A., the tire popped. Only one person had service, and it took AAA three hours to find them. By then, everyone was cranky (but none as much as the little one).
It turns out that hostels really aren’t the best options for anyone over the age of twenty in the U.S., and nobody wants to share a room with a stranger’s toddler. The heat was unbearable, and half of them wanted to cross the border to shop in Tijuana while the other two thought it was way too dangerous. Squabbles broke out all the way up to San Francisco.
It was the worst road trip of their lives, but lessons were still learned. You really get to know the people you’re stuck in a car with, for better or worse. That trip was several years ago, and they still bring it up at family get-togethers now once a year and in small doses (as some should be).
Bio: Trevor is a freelance writer and a self-proclaimed “Travelholic”. He enjoys traveling to parts unknown, sampling local cuisines, and sharing his experiences with the world. In his free time, you can find him planning his next trip or outside enjoying any type of fitness activity imaginable.
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