Whether it’s Memorial Day or Thanksgiving, the holidays are a great time to sit back, relax, and enjoy time with family. However, these significant holidays often include plenty of traveling time, which makes them some of the most treacherous days of the year.
When thousands of more drivers are on the road on a given day, the chances of getting into a car accident becomes higher. Many of these drivers may be speeding, navigating unfamiliar streets, traveling on unsafe roads, and even driving while intoxicated.
How to Drive Safely During the Holidays
Every year, an estimated 104.8 million Americans travel via car during the holidays. But whether it’s down the street or across the country, it’s always essential to plan ahead, stay alert, and drive defensively as you travel this holiday season.
What Is Defensive Driving?
Defensive driving is defined as the “practice of using driving strategies that minimize risk and help avoid accidents, as by predicting hazards on the road.”
During the holidays, driving defensively helps take away the element of surprise. The idea is that drivers who are mentally prepared and alert will know how to react in an emergency with quick decision-making, which can be essential when traveling on busy days like Thanksgiving or Christmas.
Here are some of the best things you can practice to guarantee a great—and safe—trip for your next holiday.
Tip #1: Plan Ahead
Before you start any road trip, plan ahead in some capacity. Doing so allows for less rushing the day you leave, making for a clear head and a happy drive. You’ll probably map the route, check the weather and traffic, and make sure you pack all the right items. These are all helpful things to have on your to-do list before you embark on your journey—as long as you don’t forget to put gas in the car!
Tip #2: Be Aware of Your Surroundings
Car accidents are among the leading causes of unintentional deaths in the United States. That’s why it’s vital to always be aware of your surroundings, like what’s ahead of you, behind you, and in your blind spots.
Be sure to also stay out of other drivers’ blind spots, especially if there are trucks on the road. Others should always check their blind spots before merging, but it’s wise for you to always err on the side of caution. A good rule of thumb for checking your surroundings is frequently checking your mirrors and always scanning the road up to 30 feet in front of you.
Tip #3: Don’t Depend on Other Drivers
Almost everybody has had their fair share of witnessing unsafe drivers on the road. While you can’t control what they do, you can control what you do.
While you should always look out for others around you, it’s a good idea never to assume that others will do the “right” thing. This might include expecting others to give you room to merge, wait appropriately for their turn at a stop sign, or checking their blind spots before switching lanes. Always double-check those around you before you make a decision on the road.
Tip #4: Follow the Three-Second Rule
Maintaining a safe following distance is also referred to as the “three-second rule.” The three-second rule states that you should leave at least three seconds of driving space between your vehicle and the one in front of you at all times.
The three-second rule is an essential one to follow because if the other driver comes to a sudden stop, you have enough time to react and stop your vehicle. You can time yourself by choosing an inanimate object on the road, like a tree, and count how many seconds pass between you and the other car. Try this trick next time you’re in the car!
Tip #5: Cut Out Any Distractions
In 2018, nearly three thousand people were killed in car accidents caused by distracted drivers. Distracted driving is rarely intentional, but it can be easy for people to get caught up with other things, like:
- Passengers who are talking loudly
- Texting or receiving calls on your cell phone
- Eating or drinking while driving
- Listening to or changing the radio station
- What’s going on around you outside the car
- Highway hypnosis
As humans, we often think that our brains are capable of multitasking. This isn’t true—especially if you’re behind the wheel. So, if you’re multitasking by doing any of the above examples, then you’re legally considered a distracted driver. Do your best to look straight ahead and keep focus.
Tip #6: Arrange Safe Transportation If You Plan to Drink
Not only is driving under the influence highly illegal, but it’s incredibly dangerous if you’re in an unfamiliar area where mistakes can easily be made. In fact, nearly 100 people die every year on major holidays due to drunk driving.
While increased alcohol consumption can be expected on any given holiday, it’s wise to plan your ride home, especially if you plan to drink more than one drink every hour. The good news is that you have plenty of options: You can carpool with a designated driver, spend the night at the host’s house, or call a taxi once you’re ready to leave.
Most everybody looks forward to the holiday season—but what they dread most is the actual traveling time. With thousands of more people on the roads, car accidents are several times more likely to occur on these days.
If you plan to travel on the next holiday, the best thing you can do is to abide by these safe driving tips:
- Plan ahead
- Always be aware of your surroundings
- Don’t depend on other drivers to do the “right” thing
- Abide by the three-second rule while driving
- Cut out any distractions
- Don’t drive if you plan to drink
If you want to learn more about handling driving on major holidays, you could take a defensive driving course to sharpen your skills. DriveSafe Online offers the best deal on defensive driving courses—and the best part is that you can get a hefty discount on your auto insurance too!