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Thanksgiving the most Dangerous Day of the Year to Drive

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Published in Safety on November 23, 2016.

Thanksgiving is well-known as a terrible day for driving, but studies indicate it may actually be the most dangerous road travel day of the year. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that several contributing factors make Thanksgiving the worst day of the year to drive. While you cannot always predict how other drivers will behave, you can drive safely and avoid endangering yourself or others.

Why Is Thanksgiving So Terrible for Driving?

Many holidays, such as New Year’s Day and Independence Day, are well-known bad days for driving. Holiday parties typically involve alcohol, and unfortunately, many people make the terrible decision to drive under the influence of alcohol. Additionally, many people drive much farther than they typically do to visit friends and relatives, and they may be driving in unfamiliar territory. Using a smartphone to navigate can be helpful if it is done safely – distracted driving (such as fumbling with a cell phone while you drive) is a leading cause of fatal accidents.

During the 2014 Thanksgiving weekend (Wednesday evening through Sunday night), the National Safety Council predicted over 400 highway deaths and upwards of 44,000 nonfatal injuries during this time period based on statistics from previous years. Every year, new drivers take to the road and the combination of inexperience, alcohol, congested traffic, and distraction leads to serious accidents. Keep from joining those statistics by keeping the following tips in mind before setting out to visit family and friends on Thanksgiving:

  • Be prepared. Know where you’re going and plan an alternate route in case of any unforeseen incidents along your intended route.
  • Don’t travel alone if you can avoid it. This is especially so if you’re driving in an unfamiliar area. Having a passenger act as your “copilot” can be tremendously helpful. Ask your passenger to keep track of your GPS navigation and handle phone usage in case you need to call the people you are visiting.
  • Drive defensively. More people on the road results in much more traffic and, unfortunately, some people don’t handle traffic in a reasonable manner. If you notice any aggressive drivers, do not retaliate or attempt to “teach them a lesson.” Instead, simply avoid them and ensure your own safety. If another driver is hounding you or making you feel threatened, ask a passenger to call the police and notify them of the other driver’s behavior. Find a place to pull over if you need to, but don’t stop anywhere secluded if another driver is following you.
  • Never drink and drive. Drinking and driving is a serious hazard during the holidays. It’s important to always have a designated driver if you intend to consume any alcohol.
  • Ensure that you and all your passengers fasten your seat belts during the entirety of your trip.
  • The night before Thanksgiving is well known as a big party night for college students and younger individuals, so take this into account with your travel plans. If you intend to travel to your Thanksgiving destination the night before, exercise additional caution in case intoxicated drivers are on the road. Additionally, some of these people may make their ways home the morning of Thanksgiving and not be completely sober yet.

Most of the ways you can stay safe while traveling for Thanksgiving boil down to thinking ahead and being proactive. Exercise more caution than you would driving any other day of the year, and be extra mindful of the other drivers on the road. Out-of-state, aggressive, or intoxicated drivers are a hazard to everyone around them, so make sure you do not join their ranks. Take the necessary precautions to prevent injuries to yourself and your loved ones.

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