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I stopped driving on the highway


It's not for the reasons you think.

My definition of highway is any road with a posted speed limit of greater than 50 miles per hour. Yes, there are plenty of non-highway roads with posted speed limits greater than that, but to me, I consider driving over 50mph anywhere to be traveling at a highway speed.

I do live in the land of crazy drivers. This is said of many areas, but mine in particular is notably bad. The drivers are actually not the reason I stopped driving on the highway. I'll get to the actual reason in a moment.

A fact of anywhere that has bad drivers is that in order to stay safer, you must do the "When in Rome, do as the Romans do" thing. Some people label this as driving defensively. It's not. What it does means is that you must do as traffic does else you increase the risk of an accident happening. For example, if everybody is speeding along on the highway at 80mph, you must also do that. If you don't, you're the slow guy that everybody is trying to get around, causing people to weave all over the place. You are the problem in a situation like that.

So if it's not the drivers that got me off the highway, what was it?


A whole lot of construction just began around my local area, and that means trucks. Dump trucks, gravel trucks, haulers, loaders and so on. These big vehicles get on the highway and spray rocks all over the place.

My little car has taken a real pounding over the years from all the debris that's smacked into it from highway driving. Oh yes, there are scratches, dents and paint chips. I had become used to this, but when the construction started, the debris got even worse.

It was time to get off the highway for a while, so I did. I set my Garmin DriveSmart 66 to avoid highways completely (very easy to do), and I've avoided highways for over a month now.

The photo above is an example of the types of roads I've encountered. These are the type where big trucks can't go, which is what I wanted.

I grew up in the northeast, and a big part of the driving experience there are backroads. Small, narrow roads with twists, turns, roll-offs on either side (no guard rails here, just trees), almost always in need of repair, and you legitimately put yourself in danger if you travel over 35mph on one. Why? Blind corners, and a lot of them.

Backroads scare people, but not me. Obviously, not all roads are like this, but since I stopped traveling on highways for now, I'm encountering more of them.

The single biggest advantage I have by using no-highway routes is time, as in time to react. The likelihood of my car getting hit by debris from a big truck is diminished significantly when using roads with a posted speed limit of 50mph or lower.

Surprising things I've learned about no-highway routes

This stuff is really eye-opening.

More often than not, only 5 minutes is added to the trip

I recently went on a 13 mile (each way) trip that has several different ways to get there but I'll concentrate on just 3. The 3 are highway, major roads and backroads.

The backroads way - and it is all backroads - while certainly the slowest, only adds about 4 minutes each way.

The backroads route feels like a ton of time is being added to the trip when driving it. Nope. An extra 4 minutes each way is not a big deal at all.

For trips over 20 miles each way, that is when a significant amount of time is added on. But generally speaking, if the trip is fewer than 20 miles each way, I'm not seeing more than 5 minutes added on each way at worst.

Not having to deal with highway ramps is nice

Both highway entrance and exit ramps really beat the crap out of a car. I have to put my foot into it when on the entrance ramp, and do a lot of braking when on the exit ramp.

Since I don't deal with those, I now accelerate and decelerate slower. My car doesn't get beat up as much.

It's easier to get places

This is the one that surprised me most of all.

The highway is supposed to be the easiest way to get anywhere.

It isn't.

The complicated crap happens at the end of the exit ramp. When I exit the highway, I'm on that ramp and get shoved in with a whole bunch of other cars all going to the same general area. The traffic that happens there basically negates any advantage the travel speed of the highway had.

I've already had a few instances where I putt-putt by where everybody is stopped at the end of an exit ramp. Several lanes jammed, each with 10 to 25 cars or more. And when the light goes green for them, it's a certainty not all of them will make it. This means whoever is at the back of the pack will have to wait through two red lights.

I don't deal with that because I'm not on that ramp, and that feels good.

Will I keep using no-highway routes?

In the month I've been doing this, yeah it's working out well. I avoid the big trucks, there's less wear and tear on my car, and only a few minutes is added for most trips I make.

For the time being, I'll continue driving this way. At bare minimum, I'm staying off the highway until all the construction on or near it is completed.

Published 2023 Oct 12

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