Top 5 Fast Facts about Road Trip Curiosities

A road trip is a time to pack up the car and family (and maybe the dogs) and hit the open road. Whether you go across the state or the country, there are a few things most travelers might not question when it comes to this American tradition.

Why Are There So Many Rest Stops?

When the Interstate system was being designed in the 1950s, rest stops were part of the deal. They were meant as a place for tired drivers to have basic amenities to take a load off during a road trip. They are generally places 30 minutes from each other between major (or minor) cities.

The Vail Pass rest stop at 10,600 feet in Colorado.

The rest stops must immerse the weary traveler in the atmosphere of the region. That’s why you’ll see a sense of culture at every rest stop. The amenities were to be limited so that no business could profit from it. Bare minimum requirements are bathrooms, eating/picnic areas, and vending machines. A “scenic view” is encouraged when possible.

It might seem at times like rest stops are close to other, more elaborate, amenities, but when you think back to the 1950’s mindset you realize, not all those roadside truck stops littered with fast food joints were always there. Also, the rest stops are expected to have an immersive landscape reflective of the region while still being cost-efficient. That’s why sometimes it feels like you are driving up to a 1960’s design. It worked then and it’s functional now.

Many rest stops now offer pet play areas to blow off some steam. You can also download an app to help you find the closest rest stop for your trip.

Each state has a different law about sleeping overnight at a rest stop. It’s definitely not the safest decision with the rural area and lack of security, but generally, a power nap isn’t illegal if you feel safe doing so.

Why Do Semi Trucks Cut Me Off and Pass Each Other?

You’ve all been there – you are making good time in the fast lane when suddenly a semi-truck pulls out in front of you.

No, they aren’t doing it just to make you mad or to be rude. In fact, many truckers say this is just as frustrating for them as it is for you.

Some trucks come with speed limiters and if they are coming up on another truck with a lower speed limiter, they will need to pass them. So why can’t they wait until you drive through or until a natural break in traffic occurs? Because of the momentum of a truck that large and heavy. Making room for you to pass could cause a ripple effect slowdown on the next incline for the rest of the traffic.

When driving around trucks, there are four “No Zones” to the front, back, and sides of the trucks. Just because they are sitting up high with giant mirrors (and sometimes cameras) doesn’t mean they can see you better. In fact, they have a harder time seeing you and can’t see you at all in the “No Zones”.

With the distribution challenges of 2021 and how heavily reliant we are to get the products from these drivers, give them the space to pass, turn, and maneuver as they need to on any given day or night. They cannot accelerate, brake or turn like you can in your car. Respect their space on the road and maybe give them a thumbs up for their hard work.

What’s With The Sign Colors on Roadways?

Interstates have signs that are universal across all states with specific color-coding.

  • Red – Regulatory Sign, like a stop sign
  • Yellow – Warning Sign, like “Slippery When Wet” or “Deer Crossing”
  • Green – Guide signs, like highway mile markers and directional signs for exits
  • Blue – Services guides, like campgrounds, food, gas, and lodging
  • Orange – Construction signs
  • Brown – Recreational signs, like national or state parks, historical markers, and lakes

You’ll generally see the color of the sign before you see what’s on it, so now you know what kind of information you’ll be getting long before you get close enough to read the sign.

The Fast Lane or Passing Lane?

Every driver calls it one or the other. It’s the left lane on a road, generally where people go faster to pass other cars or trucks before returning to the right lane. Some people just ride the “fast lane” to avoid having to go back and forth between lanes.

States have different laws about how to use the passing lane. It’s good to review this before an interstate road trip.

Even if it’s not a law, it’s general driving etiquette to move to the right if a vehicle is approaching you from behind in the left lane. Road rage can easily get out of hand if a car refuses to yield to the faster vehicle. Just move over and let them pass so you can have a less stressful road trip.

How Fast Can I Really Go On The Interstate?

Each state has a different speed limit, and the highest you’ll see anywhere is 80-85mph, generally in very rural areas.

Technically, you can get a ticket for going one mile per hour over the speed limit. There is usually forgiveness of a few miles per hour, but anything 5 or more over the speed limit and you’re going to be road-tripping with your eyes around every corner and hill for an officer running radar.

When you get higher than 20 or 30 miles per hour over the limit you can get a reckless driving citation, too.

So, no, there isn’t a universal “forgiveness” speed mandated to law enforcement. It’s up to the officer to make the decision considering all factors.

Hopefully, these items help answer a few of the questions or curiosities you have while traveling!

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