Planning a long drive is hard work. You need to consider the route, stop-offs, parking, and crucially, how far you can drive safely in a day.
Without further delay…
How Far Can You Drive Safely in a Day?
You should not drive for more than 9 hours a day, excluding breaks. For every 4.5 hours driving you should take breaks amounting to 45 minutes. For long-distance driving, this means you can drive around 500 miles safely in a day. You should adjust this figure based on the speed limit and likelihood of other circumstances such as toll roads, fatigue, and extended traffic or breaks.
The distance you can expect to cover is the number of hours you drive for multiplied by your average speed.
From my own experience on my epic road trip around Europe, I would strongly agree with the above figure. In the rest of this article, I’ll be discussing the justification for the distance being 500 miles as well as factors that will lead to variations during your road trip.
Key Points In This Article
Do not drive for more than 9 hours in a day
Take breaks amounting to 45 minutes for every 4.5 hours of driving
Calculate expected distance traveled by multiplying the average speed by time behind the wheel
Read on to find out how many hours it’s safe to drive in one day and how often you should take breaks.
How Many Hours Is It Safe To Drive In One Day?
The distance that you can drive is essentially a function of how many hours it’s safe to drive in one day and your average speed. Once you have established the number of hours you’ll be on the road, you can multiply the figure by the average speed you expect to be traveling. This will enable you to calculate the distance you can expect to travel in a day.
How Many Hours Is It Safe To Drive In One Day?
It is safe to drive for up to 9 hours a day. This is based on a combination of advice from the EU safe driving regulations and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
You can consider extending this to 10 hours if this is only for one or two days. If you do choose to do that you should ensure you take plenty of adequate breaks. When estimating your average speed I would suggest using a figure slightly lower than the highway speed limit to reflect the slower speeds at the beginning and end of the day due to inner-city driving.
For my figure of 500 miles in a day, I used an average speed figure of approximately 60Mph.
For reference, here is a breakdown of the safe driving advice given by institutions in Europe and the United States.
United States Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration
In the United States, hours of service for commercial vehicles are governed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. This seems like a good place to take advice from when deciding how many hours you can safely drive for in a day.
FMCSA rules allow passenger-carrying driving for up to 10 hours after 8 consecutive hours off duty.
There is a 60-hour driving limit in a 7 day period.
Assuming an average speed of 60 Mph due to traffic whilst off the motorway, I think an estimate of 500 miles in a day is therefore very reasonable.
This would involve just under 8.5 hours of actual driving time.
You can use these figures to estimate for yourself how far you can safely drive in a day.
How Often Should You Take A Break When Driving A Long-Distance?
According to the highway code, you should take a break every two hours. The break should be at least 15 minutes long. When driving a long distance, you should take breaks amounting to 45 minutes for every 4.5 hours behind the wheel. Monitor your awareness and take further breaks or stop driving if your ability to focus is inhibiting your driving.Two hours should be the maximum time between breaks.
From experience, I have found that after 8-9 hours of driving fatigue becomes a risk factor and therefore I always aim to have reached my destination for the night by that point.
How far do I drive in a day?
I’ve covered over 500 miles in a day before but this involved starting at 07:00 and taking increasingly long breaks towards the end of the day.
If you do not set off early its difficult to take adequate breaks whilst still covering a large distance.
Don’t forget to get a good night of sleep before as this is vital!
Variables Affecting How Far You Can Drive Safely In A Day
500 miles is my headline figure on an achievable safe driving distance on a given day.
However, you should try to evaluate each journey depending on a variety of factors that can affect the outcome.
Your condition as a driver
If you’re attempting a long day of driving ensure you’re getting 7-9 hours of sleep the night before and that you’re well-fed and hydrated during the day.
Look out for signs of fatigue and act accordingly, as this will be a key limiting factor.
Ensure you are taking regular breaks as discussed above.
The time of day
If you are looking to complete 9 hours of driving for a long distance then it’s very important you set off early in the day.
This allows you to take the suggested length of breaks and do the majority of the driving during the daylight, whilst most awake.
If you aim to cover a very long distance try to set off by 07:00 at the latest.
Traffic, tolls and the road conditions
As a general rule, I add 25% onto the length of time that Google maps suggest for a journey to account for breaks and stops.
Whilst planning its also relevant to consider if you are likely to be slowed down by traffic, toll roads or the condition of the roads which may cause you to travel slower than your navigation software is predicting.
Check the predicted weather conditions for the day of travel as clearly poor circumstances will cause you to travel at a slower speed and thus cover a shorter distance during the day.
Driving in and out of cities can significantly reduce the amount of time you can cover during a day.
This is where traffic is the most time-consuming. One way to mitigate against this is to try and arrange accommodation outside of the city center
How Far Can You Drive Safely In A Day With Multiple Drivers?
You can potentially cover more than 900 miles in a day with two drivers if you start at 06:00 and each drive 8 hours.When you have multiple drivers this clearly allows you to take more frequent breaks due to swapping over.
My experience with multiple drivers
From my experience, you can cover more distance with extra drivers but you need to ensure you follow the rules above.
These include getting plenty of sleep and setting off early.
Late in the day, you’ll often find that both drivers are too tired to continue driving despite frequent breaks from driving throughout the day.
I think it’s reasonable to aim for 700 miles using 12 hours of driving time and 4 hours of breaks.
How Far Can You Drive Safely In A Day With Children Or Pets?
Traveling with children or pets is another factor that can affect how far you can drive in a day.
Children and pets clearly add to the number of breaks required for rest and bathroom stops.
They also generally require quite a lot of attention and so this adds to the fatigue of the driver(s).
Generally speaking, I would not aim to travel more than 400 miles in a day in these circumstances.
This should ensure you are not putting anyone in the car at risk due to fatigue.
How far you can drive safely in a day is a very difficult number to pinpoint because there are many different factors to consider.
You’ll learn from experience how you cope behind the wheel for long periods of time.
Use this article as a guideline for good decision making.
Did I miss out on a key point that you think is important? Let me know in the comments section right now.