More than 55 million travelers plan to start the 2019 Thanksgiving holiday season with a trip of 50 miles or more away from home, according to the American Automobile Association (AAA), marking the second-highest travel volume since it began tracking in 2000. The figure is an additional 1.6 million more people than last year, trailing only the record set in 2005.
The vast majority of holiday travelers will drive to their destinations and transportation analytics company INRIX expects the afternoon of Wednesday, November 27 to be the worst travel period nationally, with trips taking up to four times longer than normal in major metros.
Planning ahead is key to safe travel. Here are eDriving’s ten travel tips for a safe and happy Thanksgiving.
1. Prepare your vehicle
Do this in advance so you can act if necessary. Check fluid levels, fuel, lights, tire pressures, tire condition, brakes, battery and wiper blades. Consult a professional if you’re unsure how to carry out the checks. Pack an emergency kit that includes a blanket, deicer, water, non-perishable food, car charger for your phone, warning triangle, basic first-aid kit, flashlight.
2. Set a travel schedule
Avoid traveling during peak times if you can, for both your outbound and return trip. Check weather forecasts and travel updates before you leave. Put off traveling if conditions are bad (see eDriving’s winter driving safety tips). Let friends/ family know your travel plans and ETA.
3. Take care when loading
Avoid overloading your vehicle as doing so can affect its suspension, handling and braking capabilities. You should be able to check maximum weight limits on a sticker inside the driver’s door or in your owner’s manual. Ensure no items are in the driver’s footwell as they can cause an obstruction. Be aware that items in the rear footwell could slide forward while the vehicle is in motion. It’s also recommended that you properly store items so that they can’t be projected forward in the event of a collision.
4. Plan a distraction-free trip
Pack a selection of quiet activities to occupy younger passengers – such as books, games consoles, tablets or DVD players (with headphones). Put your phone away before you set off to avoid the temptation to look at it while driving or give it to a fellow passenger for them to receive calls/ texts for you. It’s a good idea to explain to passengers before you set off the importance of allowing you to concentrate on the road. Set up GPS before starting your trip and avoid eating and drinking during the drive (More advice in eDriving’s Distracted Driving Best Practice Guide).
5. Get plenty of rest
Driving while tired affects driving ability in the same way as drinking alcohol; it reduces reaction times and affects concentration and coordination. Allow plenty of time for a good night’s sleep before you set off – and take regular breaks from driving – at least 15 minutes every two hours.
6. Make sure everyone is safely buckled up
Also ensure children are seated in appropriate seats – check requirements here.
7. Drive at a safe speed
Speeding reduces your reaction time in an emergency and increases the force of a collision. Travel at a speed that enables you to safely stop in the distance you can see to be clear, and remember that a three-second following distance is for good conditions only. Increase this in wet conditions or if visibility is reduced (Learn more in eDriving’s Speeding Best Practice Guide).
8. Share the road safely
Watch out for other road users, including vulnerable road users such as cyclists, motorcyclists and pedestrians. And don’t forget larger vehicles, including trucks. Take steps to let truckers know you’re passing them – this includes keeping your turn signal on for longer than normal and making 100 percent sure a truck is clear of your vehicle before changing lane (Read more about Sharing the Road).
9. Protect your valuables
When stopping for a break mid-road trip, it’s advisable for travelers to leave the vehicle in shifts so that someone is always present. Once you’ve reached your destination, be sure to remove everything of value inside. Check twice to be certain.
10. Don’t mix alcohol and driving
Don’t drive at all if you’ve consumed any alcohol. Keep the “morning after effect” in mind while celebrating over the holiday period. And look out for friends and colleagues too. If you know someone has been drinking, don’t let them drive. Call them a taxi, arrange a lift with a sober friend or encourage them to stay over for the night.
Have a safe, happy Thanksgiving!