If the annual Thanksgiving roadtrip is on your family’s schedule, be aware that weather and road conditions may put a serious dent in your timetable, not to mention frazzling your nerves and potentially causing vehicular mishap.
Be safe and sane this year as you prepare to head out on the road with these eight Thanksgiving roadtrip tips.
Allow plenty of time, Making a mad dash down the highway is not only reckless, it’s likely only to shave minutes off your timetable. When you allow sufficient time to get to your destination, you’re less likely to take risks, speed or be otherwise distracted trying to do too many things at once. If the trip normally takes (in average November weather) four hours, allocate five to six. In the event the weather takes a turn for the worse, consider driving a day early or the morning of the holiday (when there’s likely to be less on-road traffic).
Bring water and snacks. Nobody wants to arrive at Grandma’s or other relative or friend’s house feeling starved, cranky and ready to tear off the turkey leg with their bare hands. Keep everyone in the vehicle at least partially satisfied and hydrated by bringing along a good supply of bottled water and healthy (non-messy) snacks. This way, all can at least be civilized when arriving at the destination.
Pack the emergency kit. Since it’s practically winter in many parts of the country and changing weather conditions are often dangerous to driving, be sure to pack the emergency kit for your trip. Include blankets, first-aid kit, flashlight, extra batteries, cellphone charger, flares, and other items commonly found in vehicle emergency kits. Also make sure the jack and spare tire (or tire inflator kit) are present and in proper working order.
Keep your head in the game – no texting or talking behind the wheel. Let’s face it. There are many, many other motorists on the road this Thanksgiving and they all don’t have their minds on their driving. They may be too busy screaming at the kids, reaching for their cellphone or something that slipped to the floor, changing the radio station, looking at directions, scanning the road signs for an exit or gas station – anything but paying attention to piloting a vehicle down the road. At least you have control over what you do behind the wheel. Don’t text or talk on the cellphone. No checking emails or perusing the Internet or scanning your social media. If something is urgent, pull over to the side of the road or someplace safe to make/take a call or text.
Drive defensively. Since you can’t know what’s in the other drivers’ heads, you need to drive defensively as a matter of self-survival. Do the speed limit or under, mindful of driving conditions (the wetter or more snow and ice, the lower your speed should be). Keep several car lengths behind the vehicle in front of you. Never tailgate. Avoid making jerky lane changes and always signal when intending to change lanes or make a turn. Obey all traffic signs and signals.
No alcohol before or during driving. Since traffic fatalities and serious injuries are more likely to occur with drivers that have been drinking, and alcohol can seriously impair judgment, coordination, reaction time and decision-making, do not drink any alcoholic beverage (liquor, wine, or beer) before or during your Thanksgiving roadtrip. There’ll be plenty of time for celebrating with a cocktail when you’re safely at your destination.
Get a good night’s sleep before taking off. Drowsy, sleepy drivers are another common occurrence during holidays. To avoid becoming a statistic – or contributing to deaths and injuries of others – be sure you get a good night’s rest the night before you embark on your trip. If you do find yourself veering out of your lane, hitting the road strips, or not remembering the last few miles, stop the vehicle, get some coffee, take a nap – or have another person in your party who is licensed to drive spell you in driving duties for a while.
If you encounter problems, stay calm. Maybe you’ve made this trip a dozen times with no ill consequences. There’s always a first time. Anything can happen, ranging from a blowout to skidding off the road, becoming involved in a multi-vehicle collision, getting sick en route and much more. A vicious snowstorm can bring traffic to a standstill, visibility zero and no end in sight. If you’re prepared with your emergency kit, have blankets and water and snacks, a charged cellphone, and patience, you’ll be able to stick it out and emerge safely and intact. Remember, your best bet is to stay calm – especially if others in your vehicle have a tendency to get a little hysterical. So you’re a little late to Thanksgiving dinner? It’s much better to be late than never arrive.