Tips for a successful group drive
As summer is upon us and many of you will set out on group drives, we thought it would be a good time to give you a few pointers about proper caravanning. That king-karavanner himself, i_heart_my_db8, has written a very nice little primer for us all to learn the rules for a safe and successful group drive. Take it away Nate:
Ever since I laid my hands on a steering wheel, I have always loved driving. As I grew up, I tended to hang out with other people who also enjoy driving, and even now, we can never decide who gets to drive (driving is a privilege for us, not a penalty). The result is: A caravan. I’ve driven in groups from two cars to over one hundred, and now that Summertime is well underway and a young man’s thoughts turn to the pleasures of top down motoring, I thought I’d share some thoughts on caravanning based on my experience. While the following could be applied to any group of cars, for obvious reasons we’ll focus on S2000’s for now .
Enjoy, and drive safe!
****Rules for Caravanning****
—Choosing a route—
The route taken is critical to the enjoyment of the drive, and the required amount of planning is directly proportional to the size of your caravan. If your group is driving just for driving’s sake, it’s pretty obvious to find a route that will allow for a large number of cars, and a minimal number of traffic lights (the arch enemy of caravans). If possible, scout the route ahead of time taking the time to note landmarks, possible speed traps, and poor road surfaces for the lowriders of the group. It’s also helpful to know approximate miles to be traveled, as well as total time.
If you’re planning on stopping, make sure the stop will have adequate room to hold all the cars, preferably together. In larger groups, stops should be scheduled and announced, to allow for stragglers to rejoin the group. It’s always best to have a clear START and a clear END. The ending stop will allow for everyone to say their farewells, take last photos, and decide where to eat afterward, etc. etc.
—Choosing a leader(s)—
If you went to a private school for your education, you probably took a class where someone told you that “leaders are not trained, they’re born.” Yeah, well we’re not deciding the fate of the free world, we’re driving cars. So in this case, anyone can be a leader. But you should make sure said leaders have a good knowledge of the route and the surrounding area. Leaders should also be mature enough to take responsibility for the cars in their party.
Even if you are going to travel in one big line, it’s best to designate more than one “leader” in the party, should the group become separated. One leader for every 6-8 cars should be good. If you’re really awesome, you’ll choose leaders of all one color, so at the beginning of the run you can make the blanket statement: “If you get lost, follow the RED S2000.” Position a leader at the beginning AND the end of the group, with everyone else sandwiched in between. Noobs closer to the front please.
—Rules on the road—
Some of these rules are obvious to some people, but not so obvious to newbies who aren’t used to driving with others. So for everyone’s sake:
Turn on your headlights: This makes it easier for the leader to look in the mirror and keep track of his flock. The ‘06’s have DRL’s, but the S2000 HID low beams are piercing and very distinctive even in the daytime. So turn them on. A side benefit of course is that it just looks really cool to see a line of low-slung sports cars with HID’s blazing the way.
Use your blinker: This should go without saying, but still… signal your lane changes. Signal your turns. Signal your exits. This shouldn’t be done just by the leader, but by everyone in the party. It’s not that hard, but it really helps make sure everyone knows where they’re going. If the last car in the line sees the front car signaling a lane change, it allows him/her to change first, and ensure a large enough space in front to let everyone else in. When done correctly, it’s like synchronized driving- a ballet of roadsters. (Actually, now that I’ve got your attention… Just use your blinker all the time. Please. It’s not that hard.)
Use your brakes: Who doesn’t like the sound of a perfectly matched downshift at speed? I’ll tell you who: The guy behind you who wasn’t paying attention and was looking for your brake lights. So use ‘em. Brake earlier rather than later. If I see a cop, I tap the brakes 3 times in rapid succession as a heads up to those behind me.
Choose a lane: When I’m leading, I take the lane farthest to the right that will accommodate our group (excluding the rightmost lane). When I’m driving on my own, the two left lanes are my playground. Not on a group drive though. Nobody wants to see the fast lane(s) clogged up with a caravan; that gives us all a bad name. Plus, staying right will make it easier to follow the next rule…
Patience is a virtue: We all speed on our own time. A group drive however, is not the time to play Days of Thunder with the gang. The leader is responsible for setting a pace that will allow an expedient trip at a reasonable speed. You shouldn’t be the fastest cars on the road, but you need not be the slowest either. Maybe you can squeeze by that semi-trailer doing 55 and still make the exit. But can the 7 cars behind you do the same? If not, it’s best to just grin and bear it. Just remember, there are worse places to be trapped than behind the wheel of an S2000 with the top down, on a beautiful day with your friends.
Be polite: The impact your caravan has on the motoring public will be determined by the most delinquent member of your group. If you’ve got one jackass and 9 angels, guess what? In the eyes of the public, (and more importantly Johnny Law), you’re ALL jackasses. As stated before, if you want to slice and dice your way buzzing past motorists on your way to the dent day, do it on your own. You don’t want to be “that guy” everyone talks about who ruined the caravan. Trust me, that label will never leave you, and all of a sudden group drives and caravans will be discussed via PM- sans you.
On a long run with a large group, staying together is the most difficult thing. Traffic, stop lights, and stragglers will do all they can to break the chain. That being said, there are a few things you can do to keep the group together. First of all, remember that aside from the first and last car, the order doesn’t really matter. We’re going to a BBQ, not qualifying for the starting grid at Monza, so if you have to drop back a couple positions to let everyone in before an exit, do it. On the freeway where there are no lights, it’s best to stay in a long line. You’ll minimize your impact on surrounding traffic by leaving other lanes open, and it’s really easy to play follow the leader.
Around town, if it’s possible without blocking traffic, take up two lanes in a staggered (zipper) formation so that you can quickly become one lane if necessary. Two lanes will shorten the overall length of your group, making it easier to get everyone across the green light. Speaking of green lights, here’s a tip: Watch the pedestrian crossing signs. If it’s white, you’re good to go. If it’s flashing red, you’re running out of time. Usually the traffic light turns yellow at the same time the flashing hand becomes solid. Use this information to keep your party together.
If the caravan does get “cut,” use discretion to either maintain a slow speed to allow the tail to catch up, or safely find a place to pull aside and wait. If required, slightly aggressive maneuvering should be attempted by the smaller half of the group, not the larger.
Have fun. That’s the whole point of these things, right? Don’t do anything stupid, and always remember that everybody driving a car is a grown man or woman, and that they’re responsible for their own actions. As a leader, there’s only so much you can do and eventually someone will get lost. Enjoy the rest of the drive and hope you see them later.
As stated earlier, some of these may seem obvious and second nature to you, but if someone learned something new, and that someone is in your next group drive, then we all benefit.