Thanksgiving safety

The road trip is an American tradition, and few holidays inspire drivers to hit the highway like Thanksgiving. Everyone wants to share a meal with his or her family on Thanksgiving, and this desire has AAA predicting that more than 46 million drivers will take to the roads the weekend of Nov. 27. That number would make this the biggest Thanksgiving for driving since 2007, and means that an incredible 90 percent of the people traveling this holiday will do so by car. With low gas prices encouraging drivers to travel an average of 549 miles, anyone who plans to get behind the wheel this holiday should keep the following safety tips in mind:

Use a GPS
Drivers make mistakes when they are distracted or frustrated. Being lost is an easy way to become both irritable and confused, so take written directions out of the holiday equation. Most smartphones feature some sort of GPS solution, and there are many standalone or in-car options available. Rather than relying on an old-fashioned map being read by a family member, work with a computer that typically doesn't make mistakes and can easily reroute you when you take a wrong turn. Your passengers will thank you, and you'll stay in a better mood throughout the whole experience.

Avoid blind spots
Traffic may not move fast on a crowded highway, but that doesn't mean that accidents don't occur. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration advises drivers to avoid being caught in the blind spots that surround large semi trucks and tractor-trailers. It's difficult for these vehicles' drivers to retain a comprehensive awareness of their surroundings, and the results can be disastrous if they can't see you and try to merge into your lane. No matter how tightly packed traffic is, be sure to give these big vehicles a wide berth.

Turn down drinks, put the phone away
While drinking with friends and family is a common part of many Thanksgiving celebrations, it is dangerous when combined with driving. Although it's possible to have a few drinks without exceeding the legal limit, it's better to err on the side of caution. If you do plan to drink, find someone else who can drive. It's worth noting that the distraction presented by dialing or texting on a phone can cause impairment similar to drunk driving. Put the phone away and keep your eyes on the road.

Know the weather
Winter weather can change suddenly, and what was previously a dry road can quickly become dangerously icy. Prevent yourself from getting caught off guard by rapid changes in weather by checking the forecast ahead of time. On that same note, give yourself plenty of time to complete any journey. Many accidents happen when people feel they need to drive in dangerous conditions to meet a deadline. Avoid bad decision making and be willing to arrive late at your destination.

Obey the speed limit
It's simple advice and has serious implications for your safety and wallet. While you shouldn't speed under any conditions, it can be particularly dangerous when you put the pedal to the metal on a slippery and heavily trafficked road. Additionally, many states increase the police presence on their highways during the Thanksgiving weekend. A ticket can result in costly increases to your car insurance payment, so stay within the posted limits.

Pack some blankets
Car trouble can strike anywhere, and with busy holiday highways, it might be some time before help arrives to get you moving again. Be sure to have blankets and warm clothes in your car so that you can weather any breakdowns in relative comfort.

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