This Thanksgiving, the AAA estimates that 43.4 million motorists will be on our nation’s freeways and roads. That’s approximately 14% of the U.S. population. And more cars equals more traffic and driving hazards. While the solution may simply be to stay home and take cover from the onslaught of congestion, according to the AAA, most of us will make at least a 50-mile trek for that coveted turkey dinner.
So if you’re commuting this year, follow these simple tips to make the journey a little easier.
Have a driver who’s connected to live traffic
Holidays are one of the worst times for driving since everyone is out on the road trying to get to family and friends. Thus, being able to check on live traffic is a great tool for navigating your route. However, since distracted driving is a major cause of traffic collisions, the best plan of action is to have someone on your passenger side looking at live traffic on his or her phone or GPS.
Apps like Sigalert.com, Beat the Traffic Plus+, and Waze Social GPS, Maps & Traffic give you an accurate, up-to-date map with current traffic conditions. Sigalert.com will even give you route time estimates based on speed and traffic.
Plan an alternate route
It never hurts to have a few escape routes established ahead of time so you’re not caught off guard. You can use sites like routes.tomtom.com or maps.google.com to see how you can escape congested areas by taking surface streets or lesser used freeways.
You may have to drive a few miles longer on an alternate route, so in the end it’s your choice: drive 12 miles extra at a reasonable speed (and probably on an enjoyable scenic route), or sit in a parking lot of cars on the freeway for an extra hour.
Avoid major metropolitan areas if possible.
Load your cell phone with numbers and keep it charged
Winter equals bad weather, especially in Amarillo, so create a buffer for yourself by having a group of people you can call in case of an emergency. In addition to family numbers, take down local emergency lines. Log all your numbers on both your phone and on a piece of paper.
Remember to bring charging cords for your smartphone or GPS.
Leave – and return – at off hours or on Thanksgiving
Most people drive during the day, so your solution? Drive at night. Rest during the day and make sure you switch off with another driver every few hours to avoid fatigue.
Another option: it may not sound appetizing, but leaving on Thanksgiving will cut down your drive time significantly. Making your trip on Thanksgiving also means you won’t have to leave at an awkward time to beat traffic.
Yet another option: If you have the vacation days to spare, leave on Tuesday and come back Saturday or Monday, since Wednesday and Sunday are the busiest days to travel.
Prep your kids and/or pets
Oftentimes, kids + road trips = a contained nuclear explosion. To do your best to buffer your kids’ boredom, pack snacks, lots of games, water, DVDs, and music.
And if you’re hitting the road with a furry friend, secure him or her with a harness or a crate. Pets can present a driving distraction and jump out onto the freeway without these safety measures in place.
Bring food, water, toys, dog waste bags, and a leash.
Make sure your car is in good shape
Even if getting your car to the shop is the last thing on your mind, a dead car means a stranded family and a missed Thanksgiving.
So here’s your checklist before you drive:
- Make sure every light works correctly
- Check fluid levels
- Check for loose belts and hoses
- Check that battery connections are good
- Make sure your tires are properly inflated, and that there’s a good amount of tread (especially important if it’s snowing)
- Ensure your windshield wipers work well
Watch the weather
Our tip for this is simple: if there is a blizzard in the forecast, don’t drive! And if you simply must go out, clear off snow and ice, reduce your speed, and drive defensively. Allow plenty of space between you and the person in front of you (in rainy or snowy conditions, leave 6 seconds of following distance).
Check your vehicle’s load capacity
The total weight your vehicle can carry should be on a sticker inside the driver’s door jamb.
Be extra careful when driving around trucks
Be careful around a truck’s blind spots. If you can’t see the trucker in his/her mirrors, the truck driver can’t see you. On a similar note, don’t cut trucks off – trucks are heavier and take longer to stop.
FYI: You may be underestimating how big a truck’s blind spot really is. Check out this video to see just how much a trucker can’t see.
We hope y’all have a great Thanksgiving! Drive safely!
Robert & Lynda