Give the Gift of Safe Travel

Highways, airports and train stations will be packed with travelers this holiday season, with millions of Americans visiting relatives and friends.

The days leading up to Christmas, as people rush to complete their holiday shopping and reach their destinations, can be more dangerous on the roadways, according to study by the University of Alabama Center for Public Safety.

More than 90 percent of holiday travel trips are made by personal vehicle, compared to 5 to 6 percent by air or 2 to 3 percent by bus, train, ship or other means.

The first thing to consider as you plan your holiday travel is that millions of others will be on the roadways making their way to see family. Look out for them and drive courteously to avoid accidents.

North Carolina Holiday Traffic Accidents in 2013

Holiday Crashes Injuries Deaths Alcohol-Related Injuries Alcohol-Related Fatalities
Christmas 404 165 6 26 4
New Years 600 280 7 52 2

Source: Mothers Against Drunk Driving

Whether you have travel plans for Christmas or New Year’s, here are some safety tips to help you reach your destination safely.

  • Check traffic conditions and weather reports: It might be clear at your house but rainy, snowy or icy two hours away where your family is gathering. The Federal Highway Administration provides updates on traffic, detours and road construction in North Carolina. You can also log on to The Weather Channel website to find out about the conditions on your route.

  • Keep an emergency kit in your vehicle: In case you run into snow or blizzard conditions, you’ll need a snow scraper, flashlight, batteries, blankets, booster cables, shovel, flares, emergency triangles, first-aid kit and cat litter or sand in case you get stuck.

  • Keep cell phones handy: In case of an emergency, be prepared to call the Highway Patrol, family or friends in case you experience car trouble or a mishap.
  • Winterize vehicles: Don’t wind up breaking down on the way to grandma’s house and missing the traditional meal. Have a certified mechanic check your oil, tires, wipers, heater, defroster, antifreeze and all major systems before you leave home.

  • Wear seat belts: Wear your seat belt. It’s the law and wearing a seat belt could save your life.
  • Restrain children properly: Make sure infants and toddlers are strapped correctly into child safety seats and remember that children under 4 feet 9 are required to ride in a booster seat.

  • Give yourself plenty of time: Avoid rushing to your family event if you’re driving. For a two-hour drive, give yourself two and a half to three hours in case you run into stopped traffic on the highway on a busy travel day. You’ll have plenty of time to enjoy family before the big meal.

  • Don’t speed: Driving over the speed limit is never a good idea, because of the increased chances of having a wreck and the likelihood of getting a ticket.

  • Avoid overeating or binging: Eating too much can make you too sleepy to drive home, and turkey contains a natural sedative called L-tryptophan that can make you groggy. Consider passing on thirds and drink some coffee or caffeinated soda before driving home. You might even take a nap before leaving.

  • Never drink and drive: If drinking is going to take place at your get-together, appoint designated drivers before the wine flows. If you suspect another driver on the road of being drunk, call police immediately.

The most valuable gift you can give your family is arriving alive. By taking a few common-sense precautions over the holidays, you and your loved ones will be able to avoid auto accidents and enjoy family gatherings for many holidays to come.