Are you getting ready to hit the roads to reach your Thanksgiving destination? Well, you’re far from alone, as AAA predicts that the number of this year’s road warriors will exceed 51 million which is up 3.3% from last year and 25% from 2010. In fact, according to AAA this will be the highest volume of travelers since 2005.

With this many drivers on the road, it’s clear to see why you need to take extra precautions to ensure your safe journey this Thanksgiving.

Just How Dangerous Are The Roads on Thanksgiving Week/ Weekend?

Nationwide, there are nearly 400 fatalities during Thanksgiving weekend and thousands more injuries, reports the National Safety Commission. In California alone, the weekend contributes to 35 vehicle deaths and about 2,300 injuries, according to the California Highway Patrol. Of those, 15 deaths and 425 injuries are alcohol-related.

Safe Driving Tips for The Thanksgiving Holiday

– Download and keep the GJEL Accident Checklist in your vehicle’s glove box. When a collision occurs, many people panic and forget what information they need to gather on the scene.

  • In newer model vehicles, DVD screens are visible to drivers; push viewing to the back seat so no distractions occur while operating an automobile.
  • Wear seat belts at all times and adhere to the National Highway Traffic Safety program, Click-It-or Ticket. Safety belts keep all occupants safer in a vehicle, and help reduce fatalities. There are 31 states with primary seat-belt enforcement laws, meaning police can stop a vehicle and issue a citation for a safety belt offense only.
  • Do not text while driving. The number of distracted drivers on our roadways has soared and no motorist should text, dial or answer a mobile phone while operating a vehicle. Many states, including California, have total bans or limited bans around operating a mobile phone while driving. To learn more about national driving laws, GJEL Accident Attorneys developed a state-by-state infographic available on its news center.
  • Obey all speed limits. When you travel five miles over the speed limit on crowded roadways you will not arrive at your destination sooner; you only increase the possibility of a traffic accident.

Eliminate Distracted Driving

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.