The Times West Virginian

November 27, 2013

Safe driving critical during busy holiday travel season

Times West Virginian

— Many of our readers will be going over a river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house this holiday. And whether it be a couple of exits or a couple of states away, there will be some time spent driving to Grandma’s.

And the weather may just be frightful.

According to AAA, about 39 million Americans will pack a bag, gas up the car and hit the roads to get to a Thanksgiving meal. And many will be driving 50 miles or more over the holiday travel period, which starts today and ends Sunday.

Of those travelers, 37 percent of those surveyed said they plan to travel today, and 33 percent will return Sunday, logging an average 601 miles. Most will spend about $465 for gas, food and lodging. Almost half (44 percent) plan to get in a little Christmas shopping, too, hitting all those Black Friday specials.

While all that traveling and shopping is a good economic indicator — gas prices are lower and consumer confidence has increased — it will probably mean that roads will be congested and traffic will be thick on major highways.

Add this wintry mix, which is expected to dump up to 4 inches of snow on our area alone, and things could get a little messy when it comes to driving.

If we could express one thing to our thankful readers, it’s this — be careful.

Plan an alternate route, in case of weather or road construction, or just a change of pace. Make sure you have directions, a map or GPS. Make motel reservations in advance.

Leave early enough so you don’t feel stressed or are tempted to speed.

Listen to radio weather forecasts. Listen to your GPS or navigator when it indicates that your exit is approaching. If traffic gets to be too much or if you are feeling tired, pull off at the nearest exit.

Fuel up the night before. Check fluids and tire pressures before you leave. Get an oil change if the trip is really long. Make sure you have that up-to-date map as an old-school back-up to GPS.

Bring supplies in the event of an accident or medical issue. Stock your car with an emergency kit, especially a flashlight, blanket, first-aid kit and some basic tools. Bring water and extra snacks just in case.

During busy travel times, just expect to hit traffic, and plan for it. It may make sense to drive late at night or early in the morning to avoid the rush and ensure you get to your destination on time and with minimal stress.

If you’re driving in wintry weather, make sure you clear off the snow and ice for better visibility, allow for longer braking distances and reduce your speed.

And most important of all, drive safely. Obey speed limits, try to avoid aggressive driving and keep a close eye on the traffic around you.

Thanksgiving is a wonderful time for all of us to gather and give thanks for the blessings we have, including all our loved ones. Being a few minutes or a few hours late is far better than risking the lives of you and your family members.

So as you hit the roads this week, whether it be across town or across the state, get there and back safely.