Long Holiday Driving Tips

AAA reports that last Thanksgiving weekend, an estimated 33.8 million people traveled over the Thanksgiving long weekend, with more than 75 percent of those people driving. Estimates project an even higher number of travelers this year, causing our nation’s highways to be more congested than ever, in potentially bad weather. Follow these tips, get prepared, and stay safe during those long hours behind the wheel on Thanksgiving weekend or later this holiday season.

Prepare your vehicle. Make sure it is maintained and in good shape. Check your tire pressure, oil, and coolant.

Be prepared for winter driving. In some areas of the country, Thanksgiving weekend is not only one of the busiest weekends of the year but also sometimes the first winter-driving weekend. Carry a snow scraper and brush, a flashlight, blankets, booster cables, and a shovel, and make sure you have flares or emergency triangles.

Check on road conditions and weather in advance. First check TCC for our own real-time traffic reports. You may also want to try the Federal Highway Administration’s site, at www.fhwa.dot.gov/trafficinfo/index.htm, for traffic information and links to other traffic sites. Check the weather forecast before you go, and try www.drivecast.com for the weather along major interstate highways.

Bring a cell phone for emergencies, but don’t ever use hand-held cell phones while driving, and even if you have a hands-free cell phone, use it only when absolutely necessary. Leave the calling to passengers, or better yet, when you’ve pulled over somewhere off the highway.

Wear a seatbelt. Make sure that every occupant of your vehicle is properly wearing seatbelts, even if you are in a van or RV.

Take regular breaks. Stop at least once every two hours-more frequently if it’s snowing, as falling snow can have a hypnotic effect.

Don’t speed. Speeding to try to cut trip time is especially risky when highways are packed with holiday traffic. Police will be out in full force to enforce posted limits.

Don’t drink and drive! Watch out for other drunks on the road, and report any suspects to the police before they cause an accident. According to NHTSA data, more people are killed in accidents on Thanksgiving weekend than in the New Year’s Day weekend, and nearly half of the accidents involve drunk drivers.

Don’t binge. Drinking or eating too much over the weekend will leave you tired for the drive back. Safely stow food in the trunk, rather than in the car where it’s a distraction. Keep in mind that turkey contains a natural sedative, called L-tryptophan.

Cut distractions. Supply the kids with distractions so they don’t distract you. Traditional games like travel bingo tend to be a lot less annoying on a long trip than the sounds of a Buzz Lightyear doll and a Game Boy.

Finally, read TCC’s tips on Night Driving for more information. And get a sense of humor-if you’re driving more than six hours, you’re going to need it!

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