10 Thanksgiving Driving Safety Tips for Holiday Travelers

Howard Raphaelson
Partner, Attorney

It’s the Holiday season in New York! It’s often described as the most beautiful time of the year, but the winter season can also be a dangerous time for motorists and pedestrians in New York.

Slippery roads and bad weather increase the risk of serious injury from car accidents and slip and falls. Taking precautions while driving in the winter is essential, especially if you're not used to the colder weather.

November, December, and January consistently show at least 25% more traffic fatalities than the other months of the year. Our experience as trial attorneys over the past 30 years shows us that sadly, many accidents this time of year are caused by 100-percent preventable actions like drunk and reckless driving. The cold weather and time of year also play a role in many crashes caused by tire blowouts, limited visibility from weather or earlier dusk, and heavy traffic. — Howard Raphaelson, partner at Raphaelson & Levine Law Firm

In this guide, we’ll look at eight shocking holiday traveling statistics all drivers should know about holiday driving, and you’ll learn ten Thanksgiving driving safety tips you can follow to have a happy and worry-free time together with family members and friends.

Thanksgiving safety statistics

Thanksgiving by the numbers: 10 Shocking safety statics

How bad is traffic the day before Thanksgiving? Bad!

Due to its status as the nation’s most popular holiday for out-of-town visitors, Thanksgiving not only delivers an abundance of opportunities for joyful family gatherings, but also a significant rise in the amount of time spent in traffic, and in the number of traffic accidents that occur.

You should already know that millions of Americans travel across the country for Thanksgiving. Still, you might be surprised by the exact statistics about the number of people that commute over the holidays.

These statistics serve as a reminder to always be safe and think twice about going out unless necessary when the weather gets bad in the winter.

  • Over 53.4 million people will travel during Thanksgiving. The AAA predicts that over 53.4 million people will be on the roads for Thanksgiving. That amounts to 16.1% of the population. (source)
  • 80% of persons who travel for Thanksgiving plan to travel by car. Cars are the most popular way Americans travel to and from their destination. (source)
  • Car travel is responsible for the most road fatalities compared to other modes of transportation. The fatality rates for car travel are ten times higher than other modes of transportation. (source)
  • 10,874 motor vehicle crash fatalities involve drunk driving. A spike in traffic accidents is unsurprising due to the volume of people traveling on the roads, however, many crashes can be prevented with good road safety practices. These deaths are 100 percent preventable. (source)
  • 36% of motor vehicle fatalities during Thanksgiving involve an alcohol-impaired driver. There is an annual trend where there are more alcohol-related fatalities during the Thanksgiving season than the rest of the year, and a sizable amount of Thanksgiving fatalities are alcohol-related. (source)
  • An estimated 205 lives are saved each Thanksgiving because of seat belts. You must remember to buckle up because seatbelts can decrease your risk of a crash-related fatality by 45%. (source)
  • Speeding is involved in approximately one-third of all motor vehicle fatalities. Speeding is dangerous under normal circumstances, but during Thanksgiving, there are additional factors to consider, like additional traffic and poor weather conditions.(source)
  • 417 people may be killed, and another 47,500 may be seriously hurt while driving over Thanksgiving. In 2017, there were hundreds of fatalities and thousands of serious crash-related injuries over Thanksgiving. The prediction for 2022 is higher than normal due to factors like the COVID-19 pandemic. It is of utmost importance that you follow all the road safety rules and drive extra carefully during the holiday season. (source)

What’s the best time to drive after Thanksgiving?

The best time to drive Sunday after the Thanksgiving holiday is on Monday at 8 pm. The data for this advice comes from a Google Maps analysis of travel data.

As reported by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), who defines Thanksgiving weekend as 6 pm on Wednesday before Thanksgiving occurs and 5:59 am the Monday after Thanksgiving, there is more traffic on the road on Thanksgiving holiday weekend than during the rest of You should factor this while you're planning your Thanksgiving commute.

driving safety tips

10 Thanksgiving driving safety tips

As the holidays draw near, we’re excited to reunite with loved ones again. With parents flying in from out of town and children coming home from college, the holidays are a joyful celebration we look forward to all year.

Sadly, a severe injury can bring your holiday spirit crashing down. Imagine, the last thing you remember is seeing another car's headlights coming toward you, and now all your loved ones can do is wait and hope for the best.

The statistics above tell a story familiar to those who have had their lives impacted by a car crash or other serious injury.

Following these ten safe driving tips can help reduce your risk of a crash during Thanksgiving travel and the winter season in New York.

1. Check your car for basic maintenance issues

Make sure your vehicle is road-ready by inspecting its engine, fluids, lights, brakes, windshield wipers, turn signals, and tire pressure before you go off. You should do a maintenance check on your car, so you don't get into a preventable holiday accident caused by a lack of maintenance by doing any necessary fixes.

2. Avoid traveling during peak hours

If you want to avoid spending hours in heavy traffic, you must plan your route carefully regardless of how far you’re going. Leave a little early, or try to drive during non-rush hour times. Traveling at dusk and in the morning, each provides its unique dangers. Plan your route to avoid any roads that may be congested.

3. Keep your schedule flexible

Travel delays are expected due to the large number of people expected to be traveling this Thanksgiving. That might lead to backed-up traffic or hold-ups. Allow extra time for stops at rest areas, in traffic, and at toll booths, if you’re embarking on a lengthy journey. Even a short drive might take twice as long if the weather worsens.
Prepare adequately and allow yourself some breathing room. Even if you’re running late due to traffic or severe weather, you shouldn’t risk increasing that delay by speeding or swerving through traffic. Your loved ones care about you and will respect your need to prioritize safety, so don’t worry about being late.

4. Watch the weather

If there’s a chance of rain, drive accordingly. You should drive even more cautiously than the speed limit dictates if bad weather or limited visibility forces you to slow down. There are signs indicating maximum legal speeds for ideal road conditions. Driving speeds should be reduced when conditions on the road or in the weather are less than ideal. Check traffic reports before setting out and be ready to make alternate routes if necessary.
It’s also essential to stay off the road if there’s any chance that a severe weather phenomenon like a blizzard may occur, or pull off to the side of the road if caught in a winter storm.

5. Don’t speed

Even adhering to the posted speed limit could harm your safety when driving in hazardous circumstances, such as heavy rain, snow, road construction, or low light. Over the past 20 years, speeding has contributed to almost a third of all traffic deaths.

6. Stay alert & pay attention to the road

This weekend, more than any other, you should avoid distracted driving. Don’t risk using your cell phone to send any last-minute texts, and avoid snacking while behind the wheel.

Thanksgiving is the best time to use defensive driving techniques, such as watching for aggressive or inattentive drivers. If you find yourself the target of road rage, such as vehicles cutting you off, for your safety, keep your cool and avoid making eye contact.
Bring some books, handheld games (with fully charged batteries), or other types of entertainment if you’ll have any kids in the car. If your kids are bored, they may start fighting or wandering about the vehicle, diverting your attention.

7. Take breaks when you need them

While you should avoid eating while you’re behind the wheel, if you’re going to have to be on the road for a long distance, stop every so often so that you can stretch your legs, have a snack, and take a breather. Taking frequent rests might help keep you from becoming too tired or irritable behind the wheel while on a long road trip.

8. Get a good night’s sleep before your trip

A good night’s sleep before a long trip can help you to keep your mind sharp. An alarming set of statistics compiled by the National Sleep Foundation reveal that 60% of drivers in the United States have slept off behind the wheel during the last year.

What makes these statistics alarming? Driving when sleep deprived has the same negative effects on driving ability that consuming alcohol does, including slower response times and worse focus and coordination.

Make sure you get plenty of rest before hitting the road, and if you plan on driving, don’t drink the night before because driving while hungover is always a bad idea.

9. Have emergency supplies

Getting stuck on the roadside because your automobile broke down is quite plausible. In an emergency, charge your phone and store your car’s trunk with supplies.
You need a fully stocked first aid kit in your car and extra winter gear such as shoes, jackets, blankets, gloves, etc. Keep the contact information for a roadside assistance company in a location where you can find it quickly.

10. Don’t drive under the influence

Opening a few bottles of wine is common during family gatherings. Make sure each car has a sober, designated driver if alcohol is present. You should sleep in the guest room or on the sofa until you’re sober enough to drive. While on the road, keep an eye out for cars that may have intoxicated drivers and drive safely.

Client story: A cautious tale of hazardous winter driving

Here is a reminder of why you must always be safe and think twice before going out driving when the weather is bad this winter.

Recently, our law firm represented a New York family after an innocent trip to a shopping mall ended in a life-changing collision due to winter weather conditions.

The family (including three children) was traveling by car in the early evening on a Sunday in late November. Mom and Dad had decided to go out for some late-day shopping and an early dinner, hoping the mall crowds would have subsided.

Earlier that Sunday, it had snowed in the morning before drizzling rain in the early afternoon, then snowing and freezing towards the evening. This combination of precipitation and cold had made road conditions treacherous towards the evening.

Before turning to enter the mall they stopped at a light to wait for a green turning arrow.

When the light turned in their favor they began to make a left turn when a vehicle traveling in the opposite direction hit a patch of ice and slid through the traffic light, broadsiding their car.

In an instant, a joyful family outing turned into a serious collision that injured everyone in both vehicles.

Thankfully, a year later, the family is on the road to recovery, but the past twelve months have been extremely tough.

Dad was out of work for seven months, mom was constantly in pain, and all three kids struggled in school due to continued absences relating to treatment and care.

Safe travels this holiday season!

Traveling during Thanksgiving can be a pain. There’s extra traffic and a higher chance of encountering worse weather than average.

While the drive may be annoying, it shouldn’t be dangerous.

We hope you don’t need us, but if you’re involved in a car accident over the holidays, the experienced car accident lawyers at Raphaelson & Levine Law Firm will help you understand your legal options and next steps.

We wish you a bountiful Thanksgiving filled with priceless memories with your loved ones, and as always, a safe and prosperous holiday season. Happy Thanksgiving!

Howard Raphaelson
Partner, Attorney
Howard A. Raphaelson founded Raphaelson & Levine Law Firm, P.C. in 1992 after graduating from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York City, NY. With over thirty years of experience as a personal injury lawyer, he has earned a trusted reputation from his peers, judges, and top leaders, including recognition among the top 5% injury attorneys as a “Super Lawyer” (Thomson Reuters) and “New York’s Best Lawyers” (New York Magazine).

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