CHICAGO—If you’re joining the thousands of other Americans traveling by car this Thanksgiving, it’s important to be thinking about more than turkey and stuffing as you hit the road to your destination. Keeping auto safety in mind—and avoiding distracted driving—can help reduce auto accidents during the high-traffic Thanksgiving holiday according to the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI).
The National Safety Council estimates that as many as 40,000 people died in motor vehicle crashes across the country in 2016. These are some of the most dramatic auto crash fatality statistics in 50 years.
“Distracted driving—and the ubiquitous use of smartphones behind the wheel—is one of the leading causes for the rise in vehicle crashes nationwide,” said Bob Passmore, assistant vice president of personal lines policy at PCI. “Advanced technologies have made cars safer than ever in recent years, so it would be logical to think that roadway crashes and deaths would be decreasing. Unfortunately, vehicle crashes and fatalities are actually rising sharply across the country, and the risks increase on high-traffic holidays like Thanksgiving.”
“Too many drivers are still texting, talking, surfing the web, and using social media and apps on their smartphones while driving,” said Passmore. “With greater numbers of distracted drivers on the roads over the Thanksgiving holiday, the potential for accidents increases. It’s so important to take a few extra seconds to send any last-minute messages or check apps, and then put your phone down and collect your thoughts before you start driving. Eliminating distractions, focusing on the road, and staying alert to driving conditions and other cars truly can prevent accidents.”
Simple modifications to driver behaviors can prevent auto accidents and save lives. PCI offers the following tips for safe driving.
PCI’s 8 Thanksgiving Driving Tips:
- Avoid distracted driving. Don’t talk, text or use apps while driving. Put the phone down and just drive. Try to limit other distractions, such as eating or fiddling with controls, and be aware that having more passengers in the car multiplies the opportunity for distraction. Secure pets in the back of the car.
- Designate a driver. If you plan to drink at a Thanksgiving celebration, designate a sober driver or arrange for a taxi or ride service. Driving under the influence of marijuana also is extremely dangerous, as it impairs your judgment, motor coordination, and reaction time.
- Wear your seatbelt. Whether you’re traveling to see friends or family or just running to the store for last-minute ingredients, 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.
- Give yourself plenty of time. Plan ahead and allow extra travel time. With more people on the roads on holiday weekends, often driving in unfamiliar territory, the potential for a traffic crash increases. Plan routes in advance when traveling to new destinations and be patient.
- Pay attention to your speed. Observe speed limits, including lower speeds in work zones. Stay focused on the road and be aware of changing traffic patterns caused by construction. Be especially cautious around construction workers. They’re often working close to the highway and at great risk.
- Beware of crash taxes. Although crash taxes have been banned or limited in several states, many cities, counties and fire districts will charge the at-fault driver for the emergency response costs of an auto accident. Fees can range from $100 to more than $2,000, and a typical insurance policy does not cover those costs.
- Have a plan for roadside assistance. If you’re involved in an accident, beware of unscrupulous towing companies. Some towing companies take advantage of drivers after an accident by charging excessive fees and making it difficult for people to retrieve their cars. Have the phone number for your insurer or a roadside assistance program ready.
- Update your proof of insurance. Before hitting the road, replace any expired insurance identification cards so you can provide current proof of insurance during a traffic stop.