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What Are Safety Driving Tips for Thanksgiving Travel?

Published: Nov 19, 2021 in Auto Accident
thanksgiving travel

Illinois has many families and individuals who enjoy gathering with friends and family for the annual Thanksgiving Holiday. Lots of people travel by car to where they will celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday and spend a lot of time behind the wheel. That means increased risks of car accidents that might result in injuries or worse.

Autos are the Most-Used Thanksgiving Conveyance

Auto insurer AAA predicts 53.4 million travelers will drive, ride, or fly to a Thanksgiving destination. Most of those people will do so by car, which means plenty of traffic on the roads through the days that comprise the Thanksgiving weekend.

AAA says more than 48 million people will travel by auto and more than four million by air. Another million will travel by rail, bus, or a cruise ship. But even travel by air, bus, train, or cruise ship requires driving or riding to the embarkation point

Those numbers are significantly higher than during the 2020 pandemic and are approaching the numbers of travelers two years ago. Some 56 million people traveled for the 2019 Thanksgiving holiday, including nearly 50 million by car.

The National Safety Council says nearly 500 people could die and more than 55,000 suffer injuries from holiday car accidents. If you are among the many millions who will travel by car, the following tips could help you to avoid becoming a holiday accident statistic.

Prep Your Car for Wintertime Travels

Wintertime travel could be downright frightful on Illinois roadways. Although Thanksgiving is a late-fall holiday, it still has a strong potential for snowy weather and possibly a mix of rain and snow. With roads expected to have more traffic than normal, a well-maintained vehicle is important to ensuring your safety.

If you have not prepped your car for winter, the week leading up to Thanksgiving is a great time to do that. You need to have the tires checked, balanced, and rotated to make sure you have good rubber on the road. If you live in a snowy locale or plan to travel to one, snow tires can give you more traction in snow driving conditions.

You need to ensure the brakes are in good shape and the coolant will protect against potential overnight freezing. While the mechanic is under the hood and flushing and filling the coolant, it can help to put in a hotter thermostat to help blow hotter air through the defroster and cabin heater.

The windshield wiper blades also should get changed for double- or triple-edged wiper blades that do a better job of clearing snow, slush, ice, or rain from your windscreen. Also, your headlights and turn signals all need to work properly. If not, you should fix them.

Do Not Drink and Drive

The night before Thanksgiving is one of the busiest bar nights of the year. Many families and friends come in from out of town and like to gather at a familiar bar to reminisce. If you intend to join them, you should not drink. If you want to drink, you should have a designated driver or call a cab so that you do not drink and drive.

If your family and friends like to have alcoholic drinks during the traditional Thanksgiving feast, the food should help to absorb the alcohol. But that does not mean it is safe to have a couple of beers, glasses of wine, or cocktails and then drive to a hotel or other location.

Although it is illegal to drink and drive, it also is illegal to smoke marijuana and drive. Illinois has legal recreational marijuana. However, driving while high is just as illegal as drinking and driving and could lead to a DUI charge or worse if you are in an accident.

Be Wary of Drowsy Driving

The longer your drive and the busier your holiday plans, the more likely you will become exhausted. If you do not get much sleep during a busy holiday weekend, you could become very drowsy while driving. Drowsy driving is just as dangerous as drunk driving and is common over the long Thanksgiving weekend.

It helps to have more than one experienced adult driver ready to relieve another experienced adult driver during the trip. Drowsy driving could become more likely while driving down long stretches of the freeway. If the weather is bad, that could make drowsy driving even more dangerous by slowing the driver’s reaction times and clouding judgment.

If you feel yourself struggling to maintain focus or your head starts bobbing because you are getting drowsy, you need to stop driving. If you have a relief driver, that person should take over while you nap in a passenger seat. If you do not have a relief driver, you need to take a cat nap at a rest area or similar stop. You might even need to stay in a hotel for another night to ensure you and your passengers make it home safely.

Expect Delays and Avoid Distractions

Most people who drive to a Thanksgiving destination travel more than 80 miles while doing so. From about noon on Thanksgiving Eve through the weekend, it is smart to expect peak travel conditions that will slow you down.

If you live in or travel to an urban center, such as Chicago, the trip could take up to three times longer than normal, owing to backups and slowdowns on the roads and highways. You need to give yourself more time to complete the trip safely.

While you are on the road, you should leave the cellphone alone. Distracted driving is a significant factor in many accidents, and your cellphone is the biggest distraction in your vehicle. Taking your eyes off the road for even couple of seconds while driving at highway speeds means you covered more than the length of a football field without watching the road.

Passengers also can cause distractions. So could pets and young children. If a situation arises that demands your attention, you should pull over and handle it while stopped. That can help to prevent a distracted driving accident.

Illinois Car Accident Lawyers at The Cates Law Firm, LLC Help to Uphold Accident Survivors’ Rights

If you are a survivor of a Thanksgiving accident and need legal help, the experienced Illinois car accident lawyers at The Cates Law Firm, LLC can help. We are here to fight for your rights to receive appropriate compensation for your injuries. Call us today at 618-277-3644 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Swansea, Illinois, we serve clients in St. Louis, Belleville, East St. Louis, Edwardsville, Granite City, Waterloo, Chester, Carbondale, St. Clair County, Madison County, Monroe County, Randolph County, and other regions throughout Southern Illinois.