Preliminary Thanksgiving holiday road fatalities are estimated to fall 4% year over year, according to the National Safety Council (NSC).
The organization released its annual safety reminder for those traveling during the period, which runs from 6 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 27, to 11:59 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 1.
NSC's 2019 estimates state 417 people may be killed and another 47,500 may be seriously injured in automobile accidents. Alcohol is a "persistent factor" in these fatal crashes.
“Thanksgiving should be a time for family gatherings and good food, not the tragedy that a car crash can bring,” said Lorraine M. Martin, NSC president and CEO. “Let’s work to keep each other safe this holiday by planning ahead and avoiding impaired driving. Making smart decisions will help protect all of us as we travel for celebrations and other activities.”
According to historical data gathered by the organization, more than one-third of deaths during the Thanksgiving holiday period involve alcohol-impaired drivers.
The NSC also cautioned motorists not to drive under the influence of drugs, particularly as the decriminalization of cannabis continues in states throughout the U.S. and the widespread impact of the opioid crisis persists. Just like alcohol, the consumption of marijuana and opioid painkillers can impact judgment, reflexes and cognitive dexterity, increasing the risk of death and injury behind the wheel.
In addition to urging sober, attentive driving during the Thanksgiving holiday period – and throughout the year – the NSC advocates for all vehicle passengers to buckle up no matter what seating position they are in.
Seat belt use by vehicle occupants could save 165 lives during the 2019 holiday weekend, and an additional 97 lives could be saved if everyone were to wear safety belts, the NSC stated.
The NSC recommends the following vehicle safety precautions:
- Practice defensive driving, designate a sober driver or arrange alternative transportation, get plenty of sleep to avoid fatigue, and drive attentively, avoiding distractions.
- Recognize the dangers of drugged driving, including impairment from cannabis and opioids.
- Stay engaged in teens’ driving habits; visit DriveitHOME.org for resources.
- Learn about your vehicle’s safety systems and how to use them; visit MyCarDoesWhat.org for information
- Fix recalls immediately; visit ChecktoProtect.org to ensure your vehicle does not have an open recall
- Ask lawmakers and state leaders to protect travelers on state roadways; the NSC State of Safety report shows which states have the strongest and weakest traffic safety laws
- Get involved in the Road to Zero Coalition, a group of more than 900 organizations across the country focused on eliminating roadway deaths by 2050; visit nsc.org/roadtozero to join