This post is first in a series of Thanksgiving posts. Stay tuned from now until Thanksgiving to read about how you can keep yourself and your loved ones safe on the roads this holiday season and beyond.

I’ve written a lot about distracted driving here on the GJEL blog. It’s something that can happen to many of us—just a quick glance down to read a text message, or fumbling for the car charger for the GPS device, or taking an important business call. We all know it’s dangerous to engage in these activities while driving, but I think it’s particularly important to focus on them now, as families across the country are preparing to make long treks in their cars to visit loved ones for Thanksgiving, the first major holiday of the season.

Most of us dread holiday driving. Since 91 percent of people who travel on Thanksgiving go in their cars, we know the roads will be packed, and all that slow or stop-and-go driving will probably have many of the drivers irritated. It certainly doesn’t help that the average Thanksgiving trip is 214 miles—a trip that long is sure to cause plenty of irritation in and of itself.

Since what’s going on in the road ahead of drivers can be irritating, slow-moving, and boring over such a long trip, it’s even easier than usual to lose focus and decide to make one more work call before the holiday starts. Or to fiddle with the GPS unit to see where the next rest stop is. But driving while distracted is dangerous. Here’s some statistics:

It’s possible that your risk could be even higher than the above numbers indicate this holiday season, because with traffic so tightly packed on the roads, your risk of an accident is higher anyway, even without distractions.

Of course phones aren’t the only distracters in the car. I personally find GPS devices to be frighteningly distracting. They’re fine if they’re telling you where to go, and are mounted on your windshield or dash within easy sight. But programming a GPS with a destination, or searching for the nearest gas station on a GPS unit while driving is surely at least as dangerous as texting while driving.

Let’s not forget the kids, either. If the kids are fighting and need some attention, have another adult in the car handle the situation. If that’s not possible because you’re the only adult (or the only one the kids will listen to), pull the car over as soon as possible to deal with the situation. Keep your eyes peeled for an upcoming post with ideas for how to keep kids distracted so that you can stay distraction free.

Please remember to be careful this Thanksgiving. Leave yourself plenty of time to get to your destination, and be sure to take breaks from driving if you need to. Stay calm and focused on the road ahead of you and be sure to be prepared to drive defensively because not everyone will be taking my advice to avoid distractions—making them a danger to you and your loved ones. With a little planning and safety consciousness, everyone can have a Happy Thanksgiving.

Photo courtesy of: http://www.flickr.com/photos/voght/ / CC BY-SA 2.0