2013-11-29 / Spectrum

Holiday safety begins now

By now, the Thanksgiving turkey has long been cleared from the table. The afternoon nap during the football game is done, and the first round of turkey sandwiches is probably already a pleasant memory. Some guests are on their way home, and others are getting ready for the trip. The holiday is over.

But the holiday season is just beginning. Also just beginning is the danger that the holidays present.

A 2009 Forbes magazine article ranked the most dangerous U.S. holidays using National Highway Traffic Safety Administration statistics. Surprisingly, Thanksgiving topped the list, edging Labor Day and Independence Day in the number of fatal accidents from 1982 to 2008. Once you hear the reason, thought, it all makes sense.

On Thanksgiving, people drive.

According to the Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics, long distance travel rises 54 percent during the six-day period surrounding Thanksgiving. Of those, 91 percent drive, and the average length of their trips is 214 miles. And half of Thanksgiving travelers don’t spend the night at their destination. What does it all mean?

More people drive farther without rest.

During the Christmas- New Year’s holiday period, the same phenomenon occurs. Although fewer people travel during the Christmas and New Year’s holidays than on Thanksgiving, they generally travel farther – about 275 miles on average.

And the most sobering statistics of all? Between 1982 and 2008, Thanksgiving averaged 567 traffic fatalities annually. Christmas and New Year’s Day weren’t far behind, averaging 414 and 401, respectively.

These statistics probably aren’t enough to make you stay home during the holidays, if you’ve planned a trip. But they should make you stop and question how you’re approaching the journey.

How are you going? How often will you stop to rest? Will you drink alcohol once you arrive? Do you plan to return home on the same day? Will you be driving at night?

These are important questions that we should all ask ourselves as the 2013 holiday travel season gets officially under way. Thanksgiving dinner may be off the table, but there are still plenty of diners on the roadways, or getting ready to head out. And the Christmas-New Year’s holiday exodus is only a few weeks away. It’s time to think about how we’re going to plan our trips so that we arrive alive and return safely.

So get out your maps. Look for the best, safest routes. Mark periodic rest stops. Give your car a onceover for safety’s sake. Drive the speed limit, and get plenty of rest before starting on your way back. And, if you celebrate the holidays with alcohol, do it responsibly and get plenty of sleep before getting back behind the wheel of a car. Have care with your driving.

And have a safe, happy holiday season.

Return to top