How to have a smooth driving experience

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You've offered to provide a car for a VOC trip. That's great! The perks are that you're almost guaranteed a spot on any trip and that you have final say in a number of things such as what music gets played and where you'll stop to eat. But you also have some responsibilities. Here are a few tips for a smooth driving experience; use the table of contents for a TL;DR :)

The tips are split into: 1. everything before you drive, 2. the actual drive, 3. the return.

Before the drive

Make sure your car is suitable for the road.

Many of the trips we do can reasonably approached with low-clearance 2WD cars. Some approaches might involve reasonably well maintained gravel roads, while other approaches will require high clearance and/or AWD/4WD. Make sure that, before committing to drive, your car is up for the task. Depending on how much of the approach involves rough roads, you can always consider hiking the extra distance (if it's short), or having another, better suited, car shuttle your passengers (short or medium). The trip organizer should be able to tell you what type of road you'll encounter.

It should go without saying that you should be legally allowed to drive with passengers, your car should be properly insured and in general be fit to run and not on the verge of breakdown. If you have an N or L type license, it's nice to let people know.

Use the trip agenda's "driver" tools

Example of the pick up tool with passengers' names, addresses and telephone numbers, and map
Example of the pick up tool.

Use the trip agenda to get a map of your passengers (ask them to verify their addresses) to plan the most efficient pick up run. Let Google tell you how long it takes to drive in between the pick up points and allow for enough time to pack all the gear into the car.

Part of planning the pick up run is also figuring out when exactly you'll have to start. Trip organizers usually proclaim a time by which the Lion's Gate bridge should be crossed when no rest stops are planned. Using that time, work your way backward to see when you'll have to leave your place.

Save your passenger's phone numbers

Always nice to have them readily available in case of delays or trouble finding someone's place. Find them at

Ask passengers to meet you somewhere else

If passengers are too scattered for a reasonable pick-up run, ask some of them to use public transit / bike to meet you somewhere else, but be considerate in your demands: Bus service can be slow and patchy in the morning, and passengers might have lots to cary.

Talk about food stops

It's your choice as a driver whether or not you want to include a longer stop for breakfast, a short coffee break or no stop at all. Just let passengers know before the trip, so they can plan accordingly.

If there's several cars and the trip organizer has set a time for leaving town (e.g. "Cross Lion's Gate by 6am"), ask if that time includes food stops or not, and adjust your own leaving time accordingly.

Get some music

Nothing blows morning tiredness away better than songs that get you stoked, and Mountain FM ain't what it used to be.

On the Drive

Be safe

This should go without saying. You hold the lifes of your friends in your hands. If a passenger says they're uncomfortable with your speed, they might have a point.

Be respectful

Honor reasonable requests for stops. We've all experienced that sudden need to pee. And one tip for the guys: If a female passenger requests a stop at a gas station or a store but doesn't really say what for, maybe she ran out of tampons. Don't make her spell it out for you.

On parking at the trailhead

Certain parking spots are at higher-than-normal risk for someone breaking into your car looking for valuables. On these, it is prudent to not leave any valuables in the car and to actually leave it unlocked. That way, hopefully, at least your windshield won't get smashed.

On tickets and damage

You steer the car and you control the gas pedal. If you get a speeding ticket, it was most likely your own decision to speed, so you cannot expect your passengers to chip in. With parking tickets, it depends. If you and all your passengers are fine with risking a parking ticket, then obviously the cost of such a ticket will get split.

If the car gets damaged on the trip, it is a very situational question whether or not your passengers would be expected to chip in. Again, you are piloting the vehicle so you have a certain amount of control over what happens. Normal wear and tear not related to the nature of the trip is already accounted for in the Driver reimbursement guidelines. Same goes for random things that can happen anywhere, such as a chip in your windshield. Of course if a passenger directly causes damage to the car, they are responsible.

On the return

Your passengers are your responsibility

This shouldn't need special mention, but don't drive off without your passengers unless you have personally guaranteed that they have adequate means of return that they'll be happy with, none of their important belongings remain in your car and there is no way this could get screwed up in a way that strands your passengers.

Swapping passengers around due to different dinner plans is okay. Ideally everyone involved is present when this decision is made. At the very least, do not leave the trailhead with fewer passengers than you came up with unless, again, you have personally made sure that the number of available seats adds up and that the other drivers are aware that they now have to take more passengers...

Load the Car for minimum Faff

Figure out in what order you'll unload your passengers and arrange packs in the trunk accordingly. This tremendously reduces faff on the return.

Catastrofaff. Picture by Lachlan Fleetwood

Stay awake

Hopefully you had a great trip. But that often means that by now you'll be tired. A few ideas to stay properly alert:

  • Turn down the temperature. If it's warm and cozy you'll get more sleepy
  • Turn up the music. Sing along. Have the passengers sing along
  • Have the passenger in front stay awake with you and talk. Also great to get to know someone better :)
  • Caffeinated beverages / chocolate covered coffee beans.
  • Swap drivers! Especially important on epic long drives.

Have a hassle-free reimbursement

On the way back, you'll likely stop somewhere for gas, food or both. This is a great time to ask your passengers for money. See the Driver reimbursement guidelines for more information on how much to ask for. At the gas station, everyone'll have access to their wallets and there's likely an ATM around.

Dropping off passengers

If it's late, bus service might again be patchy and everyone's tired. If you had passengers bus to your place before, consider this time to drop them off at their place. Have passengers make sure they didn't forgot anything in your car, and ask them to take their trash out as well.


With a bit of common sense and courtesy, everyone will have a good time and you can be proud of being a vital part to the trip's success.