Thanksgiving weekend is one of the most dangerous times of the year for road travel, but following a few safety tips can help ensure families make it to their festive feasts and home again alive. With a higher volume of vehicles on the roads, an increased number of impaired and fatigued drivers, and a good chance for adverse weather conditions this time of year, the National Safety Council urges drivers to take a few extra precautions.
A Not So Great Thanksgiving Tradition
Thanksgiving has consistently been dubbed the most dangerous holiday for driving. More than 50 million Americans travel over 50 miles during the holiday, and the National Safety Council estimates that almost 50,000 are seriously injured in motor vehicle accidents each year. Over 400 drivers and passengers may be killed.
Historically, one-third of the fatal accidents occurring during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend involved a drunk driver. To stay safe and help protect others on the road, people should not drive when they have been drinking. Instead of taking the risk of driving while under the influence, drivers should plan to have a designated driver or make arrangements to stay where they are until they are no longer inebriated. Drivers should also be alert to others on the road who may be driving erratically and report such instances to the police.
Staying Safe this Thanksgiving
Aside from not drinking and driving, there are steps that holiday travelers can take to reduce their risk of injury or death in a car accident.
Speed and Aggressive Driving
Travelers should allow plenty of time to get where they are going. With so many drivers on the road, congestion and traffic jams should be expected during the holiday. Such conditions can lead to driving too fast, cutting other motorists off, and reckless maneuvers that endanger people’s lives. Speeding and aggressive driving contribute to a large portion of motor vehicle accidents that send Thanksgiving travelers to the ER.
Changing Weather Conditions
Weather conditions can quickly change around this time of year. Drivers should check weather forecasts and road conditions for the areas in which they will be driving. If inclement weather like snow or ice is expected, this allows drivers to change their plans accordingly instead of getting caught on the road in bad weather. Sometimes, simply leaving earlier to beat a storm or waiting for a storm to pass could mean the difference between a safe trip and one that could be deadly.
Preparing the Vehicle for Long-Distance Travel
Before hitting the road, drivers should make sure their vehicles are safe. For a long drive, it is a good idea for vehicles to have routine service, including oil changes, tire, brake, and windshield wiper checks, and topping off antifreeze and windshield wiper fluid. It is always best to fill up the gas tank before beginning the trip and not allow the fuel level to go too low. When gas levels are low in frigid temperatures, condensation in the fuel tank could cause fuel lines to freeze, leaving drivers and passengers stranded.
Driving while fatigued or distracted can be just as dangerous as driving under the influence. Drivers should get plenty of sleep before starting their trips. They should also take breaks or switch off driving duties with a passenger to stay safe. Cellphones should only be used when necessary with a handsfree device or while the vehicle is safely stopped in a rest area.
Obeying Rules of the Road
Drivers should always obey speed limits and the rules of the road, including seatbelt use. Regardless of where passengers are sitting in the vehicle, all should use seatbelts. Children should be restrained in the appropriate car seat for their age, height, and weight.
When People Are Injured in Accidents on Thanksgiving
In Illinois, the courts use a tort system with modified comparative negligence to determine liability for motor vehicle accidents. Under modified comparative negligence, the driver who caused the accident is liable up to the percentage of his fault for the crash. When multiple parties contribute to an accident, the other drivers could be assigned a percentage of the fault as well.
If drivers are involved in an accident this Thanksgiving, they should never admit fault, regardless of the circumstances. Doing so could negatively affect future compensation for injuries and other damages attributed to the accident, including loss of wages, damage to the vehicle, damage to personal property, permanent disability, pain, and suffering, or loss of life. Instead, they should gather contact information for witnesses and other drivers at the scene, take pictures of the crash if they can safely do so, and avoid talking to the insurance company before getting advice from their car accident lawyer.