The holiday season is in full-swing, and the only thing more stressful than fighting other last minute shoppers for the season’s hottest gifts is traveling. Traveling and how to prepare for a safe journey start to take hold in your mind, right around the same time you begin to remember one of grandma’s tuna salad Christmas tree-shaped abominations from your childhood.
With more people stuffed into car’s and more cars on the road, tension can grow quickly, increasing the likelihood of an accident.
Following a few simple steps can help you and your family enjoy a safer, less stressful journey. Here is the who, what, and where you need to ask yourself before heading out on your family’s holiday trip.
Changing Weather Conditions
Where you’re traveling, where you go is a huge factor in determining how you prepare. Drivers in states like Florida, Georgia, and Alabama don’t see a lot of snow or ice on their roads, but they may have to deal with other weather dangers like freezing rain, hail, or sleet. Theses conditions can make traveling just as treacherous as ice or snow, and occur more frequently.
Freezing rain and sleet turn the roadways slick, and because freezing rain comes down as a liquid, it tends to glaze or coat objects, potentially breaking off tree branches or power lines, according to the National Weather Service. All of these can disrupt even just a short drive, let alone a road trip.
Hail is another underrated danger that, while more frequent in the summer, can come down at anytime of the year. With some of the days staying hotter, it could start to show up more frequently, especially in the Midwest and Appalachia. It’s hard to avoid hail on a drive, but pulling off into a covered area can keep you and your vehicle safe from the solid precipitation.
In other places farther north, like Pennsylvania and New York, snow is a very real possibility. In order to drive safely in the snow, AAA recommends that drivers accelerate and decelerate slowly, avoid stopping if possible, and remember that the slick ground can take longer to come to a stop on.
As the Weather Migrates, So Do People
Many holiday travelers, often older, head to their warmer homes around the holidays. The “snowbirds,” as this people are known, move into several states along the Sun Belt to escape the cold up north. Popular winter destinations like Southwest Florida and other places with a similar climate become inundated with people eager to relax under still-sunny skies. Many cities have to acclimate to the change on both the beachfront and the roads.
All this is to say that you may have to contend with some confused drivers who are unfamiliar with the area, which can spell danger for your drive. Unfortunately, this is not the only thing you may have to contend with on the road at this time of year.
During the holidays, many people make long drives to see family and friends, bringing bulky cars and lots of kids. With the car’s interior stuffed with people, some bags end up getting tied to the roof, making road debris a real concern if the bags aren’t properly secured.
Watch What You Bring With You
Staying at the relatives can be a multi-day affair, and you’ll probably end up bringing obvious stuff like clothes, books, and toiletries. Your kids on the other hand are less practical, and they may want to bring bikes that need to get racked on the top of your car and electronics that can tumble around the interior. On top of all this, you also need to bring the presents for friends and family.
Other people are bringing this stuff too, and though it sounds crazy, a flying sofa or gift wrapping on the windshield isn’t outside the realm of possibility. Keep track of other cars on the street or highway during your long haul, even if there aren’t that many, and try to maintain your distance so you have time to react if something does come flying off the car in front of you.
The holidays are naturally a fun time, but your quest for excitement shouldn’t get in the way of being responsible. Take stock of where you’ll be traveling, who you’re with and who you might encounter, and what you’re bringing with you for a safe and successful experience. And remember, don’t eggnog and drive!