Over the Valley and Through the Woods…Safely to Grandma’s House we Drive

Over the Valley and Through the Woods…Safely to Grandma’s House we Drive

Thanksgiving is one of the busiest travel weekends of the year. Here’s how to get through the holiday traffic and make it to dinner with family and friends safely.

Thanksgiving is approaching, and that means great food and quality time with family and friends. Despite the warmth of the holiday, Thanksgiving also ranks as one of the busiest travel days of the year. According to the AAA, almost 51 million Americans traveled 50 miles or more during Thanksgiving weekend in 2017.

With more vehicles on the road, the chances of being in a crash increase exponentially. According to data from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), 2014 to 2016 saw a 19% increase in car accidents over Thanksgiving weekend, in comparison to an average weekend. NHTSA found that alcohol and speeding were the biggest factors leading to 29% and 28% of car crashes, respectively.

While the roads become riskier during the holidays, there are steps every driver can take to make sure they’re as safe as they could be during those long trips to Thanksgiving dinner.

Preparing for Winter Driving

As Thanksgiving approaches, inclement winter weather will also likely be arriving. This means a higher likelihood of driving in snowy, icy, or rainy conditions. Here are some tips to help you prepare for foul weather driving.

  • Check windshield wipers: If they leave streaks on your window, replace them to ensure better visibility.
  • Check all exterior lights: Improving your visibility to other cars will help other drivers navigate around you. Use your headlights, even during daytime.
  • Inspect tires: Proper tire depth and pressure will minimize slippage in wet road conditions.
  • Slow down: The likelihood of crash injuries and fatalities dramatically increase at higher speeds. Slowing down reduces the chance of injury and getting into an accident in the first place.
  • Avoid hard braking: Slamming on the brakes will make it more likely for your car to slip or skid.
  • Increase your following distance: In rain and snow, braking distances increase, so leaving more room will help increase visibility and safety.
  • Always buckle up: Just wearing a seat belt can reduce the risk of fatal injury in a crash by almost 50%.


Planning Your Thanksgiving Travel

While traffic during Thanksgiving weekend tends to increase substantially compared to an average weekend, congestion fluctuates through the times of day. Google Maps and Google News Lab analyzed Thanksgiving travel data for 2016 in major metropolitan areas, highlighting times throughout the weekend when traffic spiked.

Since more cars on the road means greater likelihood of crashes, the ideal safety scenario would involve traveling during the days of the long holiday weekend when traffic congestion is at its lowest.

According to Google, the highest spike in traffic throughout the entire weekend is the day before Thanksgiving, beginning as early as noon and peaking from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. Increased congestion also occurs the night of Thanksgiving day, before Black Friday, and on the last day of the holiday weekend.

Times where traffic is lowest include the morning of Thanksgiving day, and the days preceding the end of the weekend. Driving during the least amount of traffic will reduce the risk of getting into a crash, and will also help avoid drivers who have been drinking and driving, which increases substantially during holiday weekends.

Tools such as Google maps can help monitor when traffic is lightest on your intended route.

Don’t Drive Impaired

Since the incidents of drunk driving rise during holidays, it’s also vital to ensure that you aren’t in a vehicle with an impaired driver.

Plan ahead. Designate a driver who will remain sober for every vehicle. If you plan on drinking without a designated driver, call a taxi or ride-hailing service instead of getting behind the wheel. It will save your life, the lives of others, and will help you avoid serious legal trouble if you’re stopped at a DUI checkpoint.

By following these tips, you can enjoy a safe Thanksgiving without the stress that comes with holiday travel.

Have a Safe Holiday!

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