Summer road trip — the quintessential American experience |

Summer road trip — the quintessential American experience

Shirley McMarlin
Respondents to a survey by OnePoll and Quaker State said their average summer road trip time was 23 hours.
Respondents to a survey by OnePoll and Quaker State said their average summer road trip time was 23 hours. More than half of respondents to a survey by OnePoll and Quaker State said rock was the favored soundtrack for a summer road trip.

Few things are more quintessentially American than the summer road trip.

Whether it’s a trip to grandma’s, the beach or our favorite amusement park, we love to pack up our cars and hit the road. And we have a lot of road to travel.

Our nation currently boasts about 47,000 miles of interstate highway. The longest is I-80, running from Boston to Seattle — and traversing Pennsylvania. The Los Angeles section of I-405 is the most heavily traveled, serving an estimated 379,000 vehicles per day.

Even Hawaii, off on its own in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, technically has interstates. Contrary to the name, not all interstates physically go from one state to another; rather, the designation applies to roads that receive federal funding.

An airplane might get us to a distant destination faster, but car travel offers more freedom and flexibility — along with other advantages.

Driving forces

OnePoll and Quaker State recently conducted a poll of 2,000 American car owners, asking about their summer plans.

According to 53% of respondents, the main reason for driving rather than flying is to save money. Another top reason is the opportunity it provides families to spend quality time together.

(Having once taken a 22-hour, basically nonstop trip from Albuquerque to Ligonier in a car with four other people and two dogs, — not to mention other trips with breakdowns in Alabama, Texas and New Mexico — I question the “quality time” aspect, but maybe that’s just me …)

The survey also provided some interesting snapshots into what’s going on in the average car as it travels the highways and byways. Such as:

Road trip ‘averages’

Hours spent on the road — 23

Games played — 16

Snacks eaten — 13

Bathroom breaks — 11

(No average number of times somebody asked, “Are we there yet”?)

Favorite car tunes

Rock — 51%

Pop — 44%

Country — 41%

Hip-hop/rap — 37%

(This survey needs a “playlist” category: “On the Road Again,” “Life Is a Highway,” “I Can’t Drive 55,” anyone?)

Favorite car games

License plate identification — 43%

I spy — 37%

21 questions — 32%

Smart phone/tablet games — 31%

Bingo — 27%

(Kind of heartening that old-fashioned pastimes outranked electronics.)

Reasons for ‘pit stops’

Gas up — 70%

Use the bathroom — 67%

Get snacks — 66%

(People, you’re not road-tripping right unless you do all three at once.)

Road trip trials

Now we get down to the nitty gritty. The above categories might suggest that survey respondents’ travels went smoothly from front door to final stop.

We know that’s not always the case, although we could argue that the challenges of the road are still easier to take than cattle-call security screenings and boardings at the airport, not to mention seat-kickers and turbulence in midair.

The survey also asked about what respondents experienced as the downside of road trips:

Stress producers

Traffic — 68%

Bad weather — 62%

Keeping the car running well — 39%

Keeping kids entertained — 38%

Bringing enough food — 30%

(Maybe this falls under the category of keeping kids entertained, but how about breaking up fights that ensue when one kid looks at/breathes on/touches another one?)

Common experiences

Getting lost/taking a wrong turn — 53%

Getting a flat tire — 43%

Car sickness — 35%

Losing cell phone reception at the worst time — 31%

A child who won’t stop crying — 30%

(Not to mention, having a great story to tell and some great memories to share later. It will all seem funny … a couple of years down the road.)


Shirley McMarlin is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Shirley at 724-836-5750, [email protected] or via Twitter .

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.