When planning holiday travel, it’s important to follow a few driving-related precautions to help ensure your family’s safety. Did you know that the Wednesday through Sunday of Thanksgiving week is the busiest travel time in the United States? According to the Department of Transportation, long-distance travel increases by 54%. An estimated 35-45 million people travel during this time, with approximately 90% traveling by car. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration states that Thanksgiving was the deadliest holiday for car crashes in 2010. If you are among the millions visiting family this year, here are a few things you can do to help ensure your trip goes smoothly:
Plan your route before you get on the road. Check for things like weather, construction, or severe traffic that may force you to detour from your normal path (in which case it would be good to have a GPS or map handy). Be aware of any tolls you might encounter and have plenty of cash or make sure your E-Z Pass is paid up. You should also have a general understanding of traffic laws that might differ from Virginia’s. New York City, for example, does not allow right turns at red lights.
Take your car to a mechanic to make sure it is in top operating condition. Check all fluid levels and tire pressure, including the spare. Know phone numbers for roadside assistance in case your vehicle breaks down. Make sure your cell phone is fully charged, and keep an emergency kit on hand, including flares, duct tape, a flashlight, bandages, water, snacks etc.
If you are traveling with children, have plenty of activities to occupy them, as distracted parents can be a danger on the road. Make sure electronic devices are fully charged. Try to stop every two to three hours to stretch your legs and give yourself a break. The most important thing to remember is that every person in your vehicle should be wearing a seat belt, no matter the age. It is especially important to make sure children are in proper seats corresponding to their size/age. seat belts increase your chance of surviving an accident by 75%.
When traveling with pets, they should be in a secured crate or special “pet seat belt.” That may sound ridiculous, but it is as important as making sure children are buckled. If you are in an accident your pet can become a projectile, not only injuring themselves, but possibly injuring yourself or passengers. Just like children, pets can be severely injured by airbags. They also can be a danger if left running loose in the car by distracting the driver, or (in the case of small pets) getting down by the gas and brake pedals, with the potential of causing an accident.
Don’t let heavy traffic, impolite drivers or the possibility of being late stress you out. Remain calm, obey all traffic laws, and get to your destination safely!
If you do get into an accident, please remember these 10 things to do.