More Drivers, More Problems: Safety Tips for Your Family's Thanksgiving Commute

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Spurred on by improved economic conditions, and cheap gas prices, about 43.5 million people will drive more than 50 miles from their home this Thanksgiving, according to AAA. This represents a 1.9 percent increase from last year, and is the most people since 2007, meaning the roads will be even more stuffed than usual. It also means the likelihood of getting into a car accident increases.

To avoid a car accident that will ruin your family’s thanksgiving, let’s review some important safety tips before you start the Thanksgiving drive.

Don’t Get Distracted by Shiny Tech and Cool Apps

Highway fatalities are on the rise this year for the first time in nearly 50 years, and highway safety experts cite an increase in distracted driving as the culprit, according to a New York Times report. Snapchat’s speed filter, Pokemon Go, and GPS apps like Waze have all incentivized drivers to take their eyes off the road and place them on their smartphones.

While driving with your family to your Thanksgiving destination, don’t look at your phone. Focusing on the road, especially with the uptick in traffic expected this year, should be the only priority you have while driving. If you need a GPS to tell you where to go, make sure to buy a cell phone holder that will clip into your car’s vent or stick to a dashboard or somewhere near it, so it is in your sightline while you are driving

Alternatively, you could ask one of the passengers to navigate, so you can listen to them and not look at your phone.

Beware of Trucks and Buses

Driving around large trucks and buses is nerve-wracking under normal traffic conditions, and Thanksgiving traffic will only make it more treacherous. On top of the expected uptick of passenger cars this year, there will be more buses than usual to ferry people to and from their Thanksgiving destinations, and truck drivers will continue hauling their cargo.

If you remember to give these oversized vehicles extra space though, you should be able to safely drive share the road with them. Avoid areas called “no zones” around large vehicles, so your vehicle is in the truck driver’s view at all times. “No zones” are the 30 feet behind a large vehicle, the 20 feet in front, and on the sides immediately behind the driver.

It is also important to remember large vehicles take longer to stop. In holiday traffic, drivers will take advantage of every open space if they think it will get them out of traffic, and to their destination faster. However, when there are large trucks on the road, it could be dangerous to capitalize on the space in front them. You might think you have space before you switch lanes, only to slam on your breaks because of the thick traffic. Maneuvers like this could result in your vehicle being rear-ended by an oversized vehicle that you didn’t give enough space to stop.

Seat Belts and Proper Seats for Your Kids of All Ages

For any family taking a drive to get to their Thanksgiving destination, child safety is a priority. While older children may only require a seat belt, children under the age of eight probably need a car seat.

Depending on their size, your child may require a rear-facing car seat, a forward-facing car seat, or a booster seat. Parents should also double check before they leave to make sure the car seat they hasn’t been recalled. This can be checked at the website for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration where you can also register your child’s car seat so you receive a notification if a recall is issued.

Be Prepared

AAA estimates it will rescue more than 370,000 stranded drivers this Thanksgiving, primarily for dead batteries, flat tires, and lockouts. Aside from remembering your keys, you can prevent your family from being stranded by making sure you check your vehicle’s tire pressure, get the battery checked, and get a spare tire if you don’t already have one before you leave.

It may also be a good idea to have an emergency kit just in case you get stuck and it takes time for help to reach you. Your emergency kit should include a cellphone charger, first-aid kit, jumper cables, tire-pressure gauge, water, nonperishable food, and a map, according to NHTSA.

Don’t Drink and Drive

Thanksgiving kicks off the festive season in America, but it also marks the time of year when there is a rise in DUIs, according to a report in the Washington Post. The period from Thanksgiving to New Years is plagued with a sharp increase in drunk driving compared to the rest of the year. It is estimated that 30 percent of all road fatalities involve alcohol, but that number spikes around the holiday times, according to what the National Safety Council’s head of statistics, Kenneth P. Kolosh, told the Washington Post.

Over Thanksgiving specifically, Kolosh estimates that 33 percent of all the highway fatalities will be the result of alcohol. The NSC estimates that 437 people will be killed on the roads from Wednesday to Monday this Thanksgiving weekend, which means that roughly 144 people could lose their lives in alcohol related traffic accidents. Many of these fatalities may even occur the day before Thanksgiving, which is known as “Blackout Wednesday,” the number one night of the year for drunk driving in many parts of the country.

In order to keep you and your family safe from drunk drivers, drive defensively, take your time, and don’t add to the problem by thinking buzzed driving isn’t drunk driving.

Don’t Let a Car Accident Ruin Your Holidays

Even if you follow all these rules, the sheer volume of vehicles on the road means accidents will probably occur this Thanksgiving. If you and your family are unfortunate enough to be among that group , know that there are people willing to help make sure the rest of your holiday season isn’t ruined.

Our car accident attorneys have the experience to handle car accident cases of all types, and your Thanksgiving fender-bender is no exception.

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