WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Thanksgiving holiday is traditionally a time of travel. This year, according to AAA, more than 55 million Americans are making plans for a road trip; this is an increase of 2.9 percent from last year. The National Safety Council estimates that there could be over 400 roadway fatalities during this Thanksgiving holiday. Traveling by car has the highest fatality rate.
The American Property Casualty Insurance Association (APCIA) is urging travelers to take extra precautions, as the number of drivers with increased distractions and impairments make holiday travel more dangerous.
“The Thanksgiving holiday is traditionally a time to gather with family and friends. Driving impaired – whether you’re under the influence of alcohol or drugs or distracted – poses a real risk to drivers.
“Too many drivers are still texting, watching movies, or posting to social media while driving. And now with all but 16 states allowing some legal form of marijuana use, there is even more reason to be concerned about the potential dangers on the roads,” said Christy Thiems, senior director, policy, research, and international, APCIA.
Marijuana use can slow reaction times and interfere with coordination, perception, judgment, and other critical abilities necessary for safe driving. Currently, there are no standardized methods of measuring marijuana impairment in drivers, such as a Breathalyzer.
“We all need to commit to driving safer. Eliminating impairments, focusing on the road, as well as staying alert to driving conditions and other cars truly can prevent crashes,” added Thiems.
APCIA offers these tips for safer driving:
Never drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Remember, just like driving drunk, driving high is illegal. Evidence shows that marijuana use can impair critical abilities necessary for safe driving, such as attention, reaction time, lane tracking, and cognitive and executive functions. Whether you’re high or drunk, your judgment, motor coordination, and reaction time are impaired.
Avoid distracted driving. Never hold the phone, text, or use apps while driving. Try to limit other distractions, such as eating and be aware that having more passengers in the car multiplies the opportunity for distraction. Secure pets in the back of the car.
Buckle up. Whether you’re traveling to see friends or family or just running errands, buckle up and drive safely. Seat belts save lives and help prevent injuries. Also, make sure kids are in the proper car or booster seats.
Plan ahead and allow extra travel time. With more people on the road, often driving in unfamiliar territory, the potential for auto crashes increases. Plan routes in advance when traveling to new destinations to avoid being distracted by the GPS.
Observe speed limits. Stay focused on the road and aware of changing traffic patterns caused by construction. Enforcement penalties for texting while driving are often higher in construction zones.
Have a plan for roadside assistance. If you are involved in a crash, have the phone number for your insurer or roadside assistance program ready. Beware of towing companies that take advantage with excess fees and making it difficult for people to retrieve their cars.
Follow APCIA on social media @TeamAPCIA and use #HeadsUp to find other safety tips.