Thanksgiving in the United States is traditionally one of the busiest holidays in terms of travel. Last Thanksgiving, approximately 49 million people traveled at least 50 miles by automobile, according to the AAA, around three percent more than in 2018. However, this year there may not be as many Thanksgiving travelers because of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). For those still planning on hitting the road to visit loved ones this holiday season, here are some Thanksgiving driving safety tips. Everyone wants to be safe this Thanksgiving. However, for those who are involved in a motor vehicle accident, an experienced car accident lawyer can provide invaluable assistance.
Follow the Speed Limit
Speeding accidents claimed the lives of 9,378 people in 2018 alone, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The agency reports that speeding has been a factor in approximately one-third of all motor vehicle fatalities for more than two decades. Speeding is not only inherently dangerous; it also increases the risk involved when other hazards are present such as inadequately lit roads, inclement weather, or poor road conditions. To help ensure that everyone arrives safely at their destinations this Thanksgiving, drivers who are running late should avoid engaging in aggressive driving behaviors such as speeding, weaving in and out of traffic, or displaying signs of road rage.
Wear a Seat Belt
In 2017, 37,133 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes, according to the NHTSA. Of those victims, 47 percent were not wearing seat belts. The agency estimates that seat belts saved 14,955 lives that year and could have saved an additional 2,549 if those people had been wearing seat belts. Also, 48 percent of speeding drivers in fatal crashes in 2018 were not wearing seat belts.
For those in passenger vehicles, buckling up reduces the risk of fatal injury by 45 percent and the risk of moderate to critical injury by 50 percent. Buckling up in a light truck reduces a driver’s risk of fatal injury by 60 percent and risk of moderate to critical injury by 65 percent. The NHTSA counsels that wearing a seat belt is the single most effective thing drivers can do to protect themselves in the event of a crash. Air bags are not a substitute for wearing a seat belt; according to the NHTSA, drivers are safest when riding in an air bag-equipped vehicle while wearing a seat belt.
Do Not Drive Drunk or Impaired
The NHTSA reports that 10,511 people were killed in drunk driving crashes in 2018. Of all the motor vehicle fatalities that year, 29 percent were caused by drunk driving. Those who plan on having alcoholic beverages this Thanksgiving should stay where they are or establish a designated driver for the trip back.
Alcohol impairs drivers’ ability to make good decisions, react quickly, and stay alert. Consequently, it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent or greater. However, drivers may be guilty of drunk driving even with a lower BAC; it is only required that driving be negatively impacted because a driver consumed alcohol, no matter the amount.
In New Jersey, those who are convicted of a first offense based on a BAC of 0.08 percent or higher but less than 0.10 percent may face penalties including a fine of up to $400, imprisonment of up to 30 days, mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device, participation at an Intoxicated Driver Resource Center, and an automobile insurance surcharge of $1,000 a year for three years.
In 2018, 2,841 people were killed and approximately 400,000 were injured in distracted driving accidents in the United States, according to the NHTSA. This Thanksgiving, motorists should avoid traditional distractions such as texting, eating, applying makeup, reaching for objects, and other distracting behaviors while driving.
A recent AAA study reveals that there is another dangerous distraction to be aware of this Thanksgiving: navigational devices. Navigational devices, or Global Positioning Systems (GPS), are the biggest distraction for drivers, even more distracting than texting as a result of the amount of time drivers’ attention is off the road.
Programming a navigational device takes approximately 40 seconds to complete, which leaves plenty of time to become involved in a crash. Therefore, drivers should program their navigational devices before heading out and not while they are driving, especially in unfamiliar areas. The AAA advises drivers to position the navigational device at eye level, keep the voice directions on, and ensure that all updates are installed before getting on the road this Thanksgiving holiday.
Prepare for Adverse Weather
The weather can change quickly in New Jersey, so drivers should be prepared for these sudden shifts, particularly during the fall and winter months. Leaving early is one way to plan for adverse weather such as snowstorms, ice, hail, rain, or fog. If possible, drivers should avoid traveling during extreme weather conditions and at nighttime when the risk of getting in a car accident is increased.
If traveling with a passenger, drivers may ask that he or she check the weather intermittently throughout the trip so that dangerous conditions can be avoided. If unavoidably caught in a storm, drivers should pull over to a safe location if necessary until it is safer to continue driving.
Perform Vehicle Maintenance
Vehicle maintenance is essential for drivers who plan to travel this Thanksgiving. Fluctuations in temperature can cause lost air pressure; therefore, drivers should ensure that their tires have enough pressure before getting on the road. It is also important to check the headlights, windshield wipers, heating and cooling systems, battery, lights, and all fluids in the vehicle. In case of an emergency, drivers should carry an emergency kit in the car that includes a flashlight, blanket, jumper cables, first aid kit, flares, water, and other essential items. Drivers should also clear any snow or ice from the entire vehicle to improve visibility, including the windshield, roof, trunk, and mirrors.
Exercise Caution on Crowded Roads
There will be more vehicles on the roads during the holiday season. Therefore, drivers should exercise caution and be on the lookout for others who are sharing the road such as cyclists, pedestrians, and motorcyclists. Because the roads will be more crowded, drivers should slow down and leave plenty of room between themselves and the vehicles in front of them. It is also important to exercise caution when changing lanes or exiting the highway, as well as when passing commercial trucks. Large trucks lack the maneuverability of passenger vehicles and have more blind spots; it is therefore advisable to give truck drivers a wide berth.
Do Not Drive Drowsy
Although drowsy driving accidents are significantly underreported, the NHTSA estimates that 91,000 police-reported crashes in 2017 involved drowsy drivers. Those crashes caused 50,000 injuries and nearly 800 deaths. Fatigue can be just as dangerous as alcohol when it comes to driving, as it has similar effects on the body. To avoid being in a distracted driving accident this Thanksgiving, drivers should ensure that they get at least seven to eight hours of sleep the night before they travel. The NHTSA also advises drivers who feel fatigued to pull over to a safe location for a short, 20-minute nap and avoid driving during peak sleepiness periods, including 12:00 a.m. to 6:00 a.m. and late afternoon.
Be Careful When Making Pit Stops
Johns Hopkins University recently reported that 32.6 million people globally have tested positive and more than 999,000 have died of COIVD-19. Owing to the pandemic, there are more risks associated with travel this holiday season. Rest areas, gas stations, and restaurants are all places where many people pass through; therefore, these locations are considered high-risk places for contracting the virus. Additionally, the virus may be getting more contagious as it evolves, according to scientists who recently studied two COVID-19 disease waves in Houston. Therefore, drivers should be careful when making pit stops and be sure to wear gloves, a mask, and use hand sanitizer.
Freehold Car Accident Lawyers at Ellis Law Represent Those Injured During Holiday Travel
If you or a loved one was injured in a car accident, contact the Freehold car accident lawyers at Ellis Law. Our skilled legal team will evaluate your case, investigate the cause of your accident, and help you recover the compensation to which you are entitled. Call us at 732-308-0200 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Freehold, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout East Brunswick, Toms River, Middletown, Jersey City, Neptune, Hudson County, Union County, Essex County, and Ocean County, as well as Brooklyn and New York, New York.