Oregonians are relishing a steady stream of warm sunshine, and with the summer solstice just around the corner (June 21st), more and more of you are planning to take to the roadways with a kayak, a bike, a trailer, or a few dogs and kids in tow.
During high volume travel seasons, Oregon Travel Experience rest stops actually help save lives by reducing driver error and fatigue. OTE’s trained rest area teams oversee the cleanliness and safety of what many weary travelers consider to be miniature oasis’ along the Interstate corridor. Our partnership with Oregon State Police limits unlawful activity and supports a safe environment within busy rest areas.
Several travelers have asked us if there are additional steps we recommend in promoting safety on a road trip. OTE notes that one of the most important factors in reducing highway fatalities is addressing driver fatigue and distraction. As the designated person behind the wheel, it is critical to recognize when the moment has arrived for a safety break.
- Distractions If the kids or the dog are taking a lot of your time and energy to control in your rearview mirror—it’s time to pull over and take a quick walk or release some pent-up energy with a brisk walk and check out the sights around the rest area. Many OTE rest areas have unusual amenities that feature Oregon history or native plant populations. Find out more about our “Rest Area Amenities” web page.
- Mobile phone calls Although you may currently employ “hands-free” mobile technology, gabbing on your cell phone while zipping down the highway at 65 miles per hour is still a distraction. Save longer conversations for the rest area, and spare yourself the agony of a fender bender. And if you don’t have a blue-tooth device, driving while holding a cell phone in your hand (even with the speaker turned on) is punishable under Oregon law, with fines up to $500. Save your money for vacation treats instead!
- Yawning, rubbing eyes, nodding off How long have you been behind the wheel? Over three hours? Then it’s time to stop for a reboot. Whether you stop for lunch, a snack, coffee or a bit of a snooze, taking frequent breaks on a long trip are proven to reduce motor vehicle accidents and fatalities. Most of our 29 rest areas serve free coffee (and even tea and hot chocolate) under a unique Oregon law. Learn more about the “Free Coffee Program.”
- Losing track of time If you begin to notice that you can’t recall what town or mileage sign you just passed, it’s time for a break. A bleary mind signals fatigue. Most OTE rest areas have shaded picnic areas where taking a 20 minute catnap or having a quick meal is a relaxing experience. We also feature pet exercise areas and doggy-height water fountains at several locations.
Statistics show that a driver’s reflexes are much slower when fatigued. Your ability to concentrate is not only reduced, it takes longer to interpret and understand traffic situations when exhaustion sets in. If you have concerns about developing fatigue after you set out on your journey, there are several “pre-flight” steps you can take to lessen the chance of driver distraction or fatigue:
- Get a good night’s rest before driving, preferably eight hours.
- Avoid driving during the hours you would normally be sleeping. (For most people, these hours occur between 10:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m.)
- If you normally take a mid-afternoon nap, avoid driving during that time. This would be a perfect opportunity to pull over at one of our larger rest areas and take a walk on one of the walking trails or play a game of Frisbee with the dog.
- Do not drink even a small amount of alcohol at lunch or dinner. This intensifies the effects of fatigue. Plus drinking alcohol, even if you’re not the driver is illegal in Oregon rest areas. Find out more about what’s allowed or prohibited in this PDF copy of Oregon’s Rest Area Rules.
- Plan your stops ahead. Most of our rest areas along major highways are placed an hour or less apart. Check out our rest area locations on the OTE website. We are mobile device responsive and your information can be obtained on the go.
- Breathe in fresh air. Turn on the outside air fan inside your vehicle or open up the windows.
- Eat light fresh foods and avoid heavy sugary, fatty or carbohydrate laden meals that contribute to feelings of exhaustion. Pack a cooler full of fresh carrot sticks, hummus, and celery. And don’t forget the water! It’s important to stay well hydrated.
- If you can avoid driving after long-distance air travel, the sudden effects of jet-lag may be avoided. Driving a rental car in unfamiliar territory can subject the driver to extra stress, which may intensify that feeling of jitteriness in another time zone.
- Designate a co-pilot; a friend or family member who can monitor your weariness and alertness. Share the driving if possible. Switch off after every two hours and watch out for one another.
Oregon Travel Experience rest areas not only help reduce traffic fatalities, they’re convenient sources of information about nearby businesses, hotels, restaurants, and vacation attractions. Most of our rest area staff live near the locations they tend. Ask them for directions and you’re likely to get “insider” tips or advice about the local scene. Our employees take great pride in helping travelers to orient themselves or discover hidden gems.
Oregon highway maps are also available for free at our rest areas, courtesy of the Oregon Department of Transportation. Ask one of our OTE uniformed staff or knock on the OTE rest area office door. If you would like a map, need help finding a lost item, or have minor mechanical difficulties (dead battery, flat tire, etc.), our specialists are notoriously friendly and happy to help.
We hope to see you this summer in an OTE rest area, and wish you a safe and happy Oregon journey.