November is one of the busiest weeks on our nation’s highways thanks to a little holiday delightfully nicknamed Turkey Day. Thanksgiving is the holiday when many of us cross long distances for the ones we love. We reunite with our families, introduce new friends, and participate in holiday traditions, like eating mom’s cooking or watching football games and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, Thanksgiving Day has the heaviest traffic of the year, with 91% of the population traveling by car. The average driving distance for holiday travel is 214 miles. That’s a long time to be crammed in the car with your little ones, or your big ones.
Going the Distance?
No matter where you’re headed this holiday season, here are ten essential driving tips sure to get you safely to your destination and ready for stuffing:
- Inspect Your Vehicle.
When is the last time you took your car in for maintenance? Maximize your safety before heading out on the road by cleaning your windows, and check your oil and coolant levels. Be sure to check your tire pressure or have your tires rotated. The last thing you want is to be stranded on the side of the road from a tire blowout.
- Pack an Emergency Kit.
Other than a flashlight, tire jack, and flares, a first aid kit, a spare key, a phone charger and a gas card will help you be prepared for the unexpected. Consider signing up for a roadside assistance program, like AAA, in case your battery dies and no one can give you a jump.
- Plan Your Trip.
Don’t just rely on your GPS. Use an actual physical map or atlas, and mark rest areas along your route so you know where to stop when it’s time for a bathroom break. When traveling through different states, familiarize yourself with the local laws. Research ideas for meals or local attractions for scheduled stops during your drive. Maybe there’s a mall perfect for Black Friday shopping. You never know unless you look.
- Get Plenty of Sleep.
Being alert on the road is easier when you start your day well-rested. Getting a full night’s sleep prior to travel will help you do just that. It will also keep you from relying on caffeinated or sugary drinks that can make you feel jittery and anxious.
- Take Breaks.
Taking a break is integral to getting to your destination safely. Plan a stop every two hours, even if it’s just for 15 minutes. Breaks are the perfect time to stretch your legs and check in with your family so they’re up to date with where you are on your journey.
- Eat Light.
A full belly can sometimes make us feel sluggish and sleepy. To better avoid the heavy eyelid symptoms of an oncoming food coma, eat light. Eat breakfast before you start out on the road (it’s the most important meal of the day, after all). Pack a small cooler with snacks and plenty of bottled water. There’s bound to be plenty to fill your belly with when you finally arrive at your destination.
- Enlist a Driving Buddy.
Thanksgiving presents a wonderful bonding opportunity among friends, family, and significant others. And honestly, what road trip isn’t better with a buddy? Divvy up your driving time between rest stops to equally share driver and navigation responsibilities. A driving companion can also help you focus so you’re less likely to engage in risky distractions like texting. Snap photos along the way to better share your adventure with others and to enjoy memories for years to come.
- Beware the Changing Weather.
From coast to coast, weather impacts our ability to travel safely along our roads and highways. A study conducted by the Federal Highway Administration found, on average, there are over five million car crashes a year; 23% of these are weather-related. Wind speed, precipitation, fog, snow, ice and rain all impact the way our car handles the road, and the amount of traffic we can expect. Be sure to check the weather report for the week you are traveling for every place you may be traveling through. During your drive, listen to the radio for local weather updates.
- Lay Off the Lead Foot.Once heavy traffic clears, it can be a real temptation to put that pedal to the metal and speed on down the road. Not only does this consume more gas than necessary, it can also result in a collision. In 2013, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reported that speeding was the cause of 30% of fatal crashes.
- Share the Road.
Being the busiest travel day of the year, there’s bound to be traffic. However, passenger cars aren’t the only vehicle occupants you need to be aware of. Semi-trailer trucks and big rigs will be out on the road too, so spread some holiday cheer by sharing the road. Leave enough space between your car and large trucks for improved response time, in case they need to stop suddenly. Remember, semis have lots of blind spots. If you can’t see the driver, they can’t see you.
We at Fried Rogers and Goldberg wish you and your family safe travels this holiday season. If you or a loved one should suffer the misfortune of a truck accident, please know that we are here to help you get the compensation you deserve.