The holiday season – a time of joy, festivity, and increased traffic on the roads. With so many people rushing to visit families, shop for gifts, or take a vacation, the highways become more crowded than usual. This surge in traffic, combined with unpredictable winter weather, means planning ahead and ensuring safety while traveling is crucial.
During the holidays, more people take to the roads, leading to congested highways, busy rest stops, and increased chances of collisions. Recognizing this can help you be more patient, attentive, and prepared.
Winter weather conditions and more traffic during the holiday season can increase the risk of accidents. In 2020, there were 496 fatalities during the Thanksgiving holiday period and 312 deaths over the Christmas Day holidays nationwide.
Use our comprehensive guide to make sure your holiday road trips are safe:
- Essential vehicle maintenance. Before you set off, winterize your vehicle to prepare for the journey. Regularly check and top off the oil and replace your wipers with silicone ones for better snow removal.
Check your brake pads and replace them if they are thinner than about ¼”. Refill your engine coolant with a mixture of 50:50 antifreeze/water for freezing temps and your brake and windshield wiper fluids. Also, ensure your car’s brake lights and turn signals function correctly.
- Winter tires. Winter tires are essential if you’re venturing into snowy or icy areas. These tires are designed with softer, flexible rubber compounds that grip cold roads better than standard tires. Check the tread depth: it should be at least 4/32 inches for safe winter driving. Rotate them regularly to ensure even wear and longevity.
- Emergency kit. Pack an emergency kit with essentials like a durable flashlight, jumper cables for unexpected battery issues, a first-aid kit, bottled water, and non-perishable snacks like granola bars or trail mix. Include an emergency blanket to stay warm in case you get stranded and a multi-use tool to address mechanical issues.
- Packing tips. Overpacking can weigh down your vehicle, but you always want to be prepared. Ensure you pack all vital items like medications, clothing, and essential documents like your driver’s license, car insurance, and registration papers.
When packing, choose soft bags that are easier to fit and adjust in the trunk. Ensure your baggage doesn’t obstruct your rearview window, allowing for a safe drive.
Safe driving is essential for any road trip, especially during the holiday season. Before hitting the road, consider these crucial safety tips to ensure a smooth and safe journey:
- Plan for rest stops. Strategize your route using your phone’s built-in navigation app or downloading an app like Waze to identify suitable rest areas or pit stops.
Aim to take a break every couple of hours to combat fatigue. These stops will allow you to rest, stretch, refuel, and enjoy some refreshments. Remember, a well-rested driver is a safer driver.
- Share drive time. On long road trips, switch up drivers to avoid exhaustion. Taking turns behind the wheel helps keep driver reflexes sharp and ensures everyone can enjoy the journey.
- Buckle up. Seat belts reduce the risk of injury or death in a car crash by about 50%. If you are traveling with children, check that they are in an appropriately sized car seat to keep them safe.
- Stay updated with weather forecasts. Use reliable weather apps to check your route’s forecast and set up real-time update notifications. Tune in to local radio stations for timely weather and road condition alerts during your journey.
- Stay alert and focused. Keep your eyes on the road and pay attention to your surroundings. Distracted driving can cause you to miss sudden or unexpected road condition changes. Get a good night’s sleep before the trip to maximize your alertness. If you are tired, take a break or stop at a rest area.
- Keep a safe following distance. In unpredictable weather conditions, maintain a safe distance from the vehicle in front of you, usually at least three or more seconds. This gives you more time to react to sudden stops or changes, especially on icy or wet roads.
- Avoid night driving when possible. Even though roads may be less congested at night, the risk of accidents can rise due to limited visibility and the potential of crossing paths with intoxicated drivers. If night driving is unavoidable, ensure your headlights are clear, and in proper working order and exercise vigilance.
Traveling during the holidays can be a fun and memorable adventure, but planning and preparing your vehicle to stay safe is important. If an accident occurs, contact a Syracuse auto accident lawyer with Catalano Law to help you navigate the aftermath.
We have over half a century of combined legal experience and can help you protect your rights when filing a claim for your injuries. Contact us for a free consultation to share the details about your case and understand your legal options.