Whether or not you’ll be home for Christmas, the holiday season is always a busy travel time. This year is slated to be even busier than usual. Due to the improving economy and the low price of gas, AAA predicts that 2014 will have the busiest holiday travel on record, with nearly 99 million Americans traveling more than 50 miles. Air travel is also expected to increase this year, to 5.7 million travelers.
The last days before Christmas are a particularly dangerous time to be on the roads, as people are rushing to finish their holiday shopping or leaving for trips out of town. For those wanting to avoid the worst of the traffic, traveling on the actual holiday may be your best bet. Fewer people are on the roads on Christmas and Christmas Eve.
Winter weather is another factor that makes holiday travel hazardous. Snow and sleet make roads dangerous and safe driving difficult. If you can’t avoid being on the roads this holiday season, here are some tips to make your journey safer:
– Have your car checked by a professional mechanic before your road trip. Take the time to have your car get any regular service it may need.
– Charge your cell phone in advance and bring a car charger.
– Drive carefully and stay within the speed limit. Wear a seatbelt, and don’t use your cell phone while driving.
– Plan your route in advance, and check traffic and weather forecasts ahead of time. You may want to bring a paper map in case there is a problem with your GPS or phone.
– Get a good night’s sleep before leaving on your trip. Be sure to take regular breaks from driving, especially when you feel tired. Avoid driving all night if at all possible.
– Keep your gas tank at least half full. If you become stuck or stranded, you will be able to run the heater.
– Be prepared for emergencies by packing a first aid kid, jumper cables, ice scraper, blanket, flashlight, food and water, and sand or kitty litter (which can be used to improve traction on ice).
– If the weather becomes severe, do your best to get off the roads.
Even if you’re staying at home for the holidays, driving can be dangerous. With so many parties this time of year, the number of drunk drivers on the roads is much higher. The number of fatalities from alcohol-related car accidents between Christmas and New Year’s is two to three times higher than comparable periods the rest of the year. In addition, 40% of fatal traffic collisions during this time involve an alcohol-impaired driver, compared with 28% during the rest of December.
If you’re going to a party and plan on drinking, agree on a designated driver beforehand or take a cab. If you’re hosting, offer to let guests stay the night, or avoid drinking and drive them home yourself. Don’t let tipsy or intoxicated people drive.
Wherever you will be this year, have a safe, happy, and healthy holiday!