Some 43.4 million motorists will hit the highways this Thanksgiving weekend. With Winter Storm Boreas wreaking havoc on roadways, it's doubly important for drivers to maintain a safety-first mindset as they embark on their holiday journeys.
Gathering best practices from a team of professional truck drivers with millions of accident-free miles, the American Trucking Associations offers these tips for safe holiday travel:
- Prepare your vehicle for long-distance travel. Check your wipers and fluids. Have your radiator and cooling system serviced. Simple maintenance can prevent many of the problems that strand motorists on the side of the road.
- Plan ahead. Before you get on a highway, know your exit by name and number, and watch the signs as you near the off-ramp. Drivers making unexpected lane changes to exit often cause accidents.
- Do not cut in front of large trucks. Remember that trucks are heavier and take longer to make a complete stop, so avoid cutting quickly in front of them.
- Be aware of truck blind spots. When sharing the road with large trucks, be aware of their blind spots. If you can't see the truck driver in his or her mirrors, then the truck driver can't see you.
- Check your emergency kit. Contents should include a battery-powered radio, flashlight, blanket, jumper cables, fire extinguisher, first aid kit, bottled water, non-perishable foods, maps, tire-repair kit and flares.
- Keep your eyes on the road. Distracted driving is a major cause of traffic accidents. Even just two seconds of distraction time doubles the chances of an accident. Use your cell phone when stopped and never text while driving.
- Leave early and avoid risks. Leave early so you won't be anxious about arriving late and to accommodate delays. Road conditions may change due to inclement weather or traffic congestion.
- Avoid extreme weather conditions. Ice, hail and snow make roads difficult to travel. Try to avoid driving through extreme weather conditions, and travel during daylight.
- Remove ice and snow from your vehicle. Clear snow from your windows and roof to ensure that you have maximum visibility and are not creating a hazard for the vehicle behind you. Don't allow ice and snow to create additional blind spots on your vehicle.
- Be aware of the vehicle in front of you. Leave extra room between you and the vehicle in front so you can avoid snow and ice blowing onto your windshield or maneuver around patches of ice.
- Slow down. With the extra highway congestion due to holiday travel, speeding becomes even more dangerous. Allow plenty of space cushion and reduce your speed.
- Buckle up. Safety belts reduce the risk of fatal injury by 45 percent and are a simple way to increase your safety on the road.
"Thanksgiving is a challenging time on the highways," said Share the Road professional driver Jeff Halford (Con-way Freight). "Between motorists visiting families or shopping during the start of the holiday shopping season, our highways are busier than ever. There is nothing better than patience and safe driving practices behind the wheel."
Share the Road is a highway-safety outreach program of the American Trucking Associations that educates all drivers about sharing the roads safely with large trucks.