Thanksgiving is a special holiday for many Americans and their families. People travel long distances to enjoy great food, celebrate the things they are thankful for, and spend time with friends and relatives they may not see often.
However, it is important to drive extra carefully during the Thanksgiving season as it is one of the most dangerous times of year for travel. About 400 fatal accidents occur each year on American roadways between 6:00 pm the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and 11:59 pm the Sunday after, according to The National Safety Council.
The following blog highlights some of the dangers involved in Thanksgiving travel while providing helpful tips from the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) to help keep you safe.
There are a variety of factors that make the Thanksgiving season a more dangerous time to travel than other times of year. Increased traffic, distance traveled, and alcohol-impaired driving are some of the more noteworthy dangers.
One of the biggest risk factors associated with Thanksgiving travel is the sheer number of drivers that are on the road. Last year, over 48 million people traveled over 50 miles by car to celebrate Thanksgiving. With that many motorists on the road combined with the distractions that often come with long rides with family members, the chance that accidents will happen are bound to increase.
The increased traffic and consumption of alcohol that can be involved in Thanksgiving celebration is a dangerous combination. In 2016, alcohol-impaired driving was a factor in 28% of total traffic fatalities. During the Thanksgiving period of that year, alcohol-impaired driving was a factor in 34% of fatalities.
The night before Thanksgiving is one of the biggest drinking nights of the year. On “Thanksgiving Eve,” often referred to as Black Wednesday, it is common for young adults to visit hometown bars to catch up with old friends. While this may sound like a fun way to celebrate, this tradition creates a dangerous situation when responsible habits are not practiced. Bars report sales increases of 270% on beer and 114% on hard liquor while many areas see increases in drunk driving.
How to stay safe
Due to the increased level of danger associated with Thanksgiving driving, the NHTSA recommends that you take the following precautions:
- Travel at a safe speed – Speeding has been a factor in about one-third of motor vehicle fatalities for the last two decades. Even when you are driving the speed limit, it is possible that you could be moving too fast to safely react to hazards due to weather, road conditions, or lighting.
- Don’t drive distracted. – Pay close attention to the road in front of you. Texting or any other distraction that takes your eyes off the road for five seconds while you are traveling 55 mph is like driving the entire length of a football field with your eyes closed.
- Wear a seat belt and wear it properly. – Wearing a seat belt has an incredible impact on the odds that you survive a crash. Seat belts saved almost 15,000 lives in 2017.
- Make sure children are buckled in the right seats for their ages and sizes. – In 2017, proper child restraints saved 375 children ages 4 and under. Since 1975, child restraints have saved 11,606 in total.
- Drive Sober. – If you plan to drink, designate a sober driver. Do not allow friends or relatives to drink and drive either. In 2017, 10,874 people died in crashes where at least one motorist was legally drunk.
We strongly recommend that you take these safety precautions and share these tips with friends and relatives this Thanksgiving season. We wish you all a happy and safe holiday.