The global coronavirus crisis has upended life as we know it, and what began as a two-week shutdown in March is now affecting holiday travel for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Experts predict that the number of Americans who travel to visit family and friends this Thanksgiving will be far less than normal, but for those who do travel, more will choose to get there by car than during any year in recent memory.
What does that mean for you if your family is planning on taking a Thanksgiving road trip? At this point, it’s hard to tell. Americans are expected to travel 513 miles this Thanksgiving on average, which is a decrease of more than 50% compared to last year. Shorter distance trips often mean choosing to pack up the car rather than book flights. So, although fewer Americans will be traveling overall, roads may be just as—or even more—busy than usual. That means the risk of a crash is also higher.
The thought of emptier highways and interstates on your annual trip to grandma’s house may seem appealing. But many studies have shown that the number of serious and fatal crashes haven’t gone down during the COVID-19 shutdowns, and in some states, they’ve actually increased. Experts speculate that could be due to drivers being more complacent about their safety and exhibiting dangerous driving behaviors they normally can’t get away with in heavy traffic.
Heavy traffic seems dangerous, but it doesn’t always work that way. When traffic volumes are heavy, drivers often have no choice but to pay close attention to the road and monitor their speed and braking. When roads are emptier—or when they perceive them to be emptier—they may be more likely to relax, exceed the speed limit, and follow other vehicles more closely.
Many people are avoiding air travel due to fear of being confined in a small space with a passenger who may be infected with COVID-19. Traveling by car is safer in that regard, but only if no one in your family has the virus.
Monitor your and your loved one’s health and symptoms in the days leading up to your trip. If anyone has a fever, coughing, or other symptoms of coronavirus or a flu, stay home. Wearing masks can help reduce the risk of spreading the disease, but the close quarters of a car, truck, or SUV may still result in transmission to others.
Depending on the weather and where you’re going, you could run into snow and ice on your drive to or from your holiday get-together. When one or both accumulate on roads, they can turn routine drives into treacherous ones. It’s important to remember that there are few road conditions more dangerous than snow and ice, as they can easily cause you to lose control of your vehicle.
Before heading out, check the weather forecast. If temperatures will be at or below freezing, continue to check weather forecasts during your drive. Even light rain can freeze and turn roads icy in a matter of minutes. This is especially true when driving at high elevations or when driving over bridges, which ice over long before other parts of the road.
Speeding is always dangerous, whether you’re driving in bumper to bumper holiday traffic, or you’ve got empty roads for miles ahead. Many drivers feel flustered on the holidays because of traffic jams and dinner times, and they may try to make up for lost time by speeding.
While you can’t always anticipate traffic jams, you can give yourself every chance to avoid a delay by leaving early. Pack your bags the night before you leave and map your route just before pulling out of your driveway. Seeing real-time traffic conditions means you may be able to take alternate routes that avoid long delays.
If you’re like many Americans, you haven’t driven much during the pandemic. In particular, you probably haven’t taken any long-distance road trips. And while your vehicle may have held up fine going to work or the grocery store, it may be a different story when you take it cross-country or even just across the state.
Check all of your vehicle’s major components, including battery, tires, wipers, fluid levels, and lights, before you leave. Replace or repair anything that’s broken, worn out, or damaged. And if you haven’t driven much at all since March, take your vehicle out on a highway or interstate to check its performance and reacquaint yourself with the demands of long-distance travel.
At Fleschner, Stark, Tanoos & Newlin, our Indiana car accident lawyers hope everyone in the Hoosier State has a great Thanksgiving. But we know that holiday traffic will result in crashes and injuries, even if fewer drivers are on the road than normal.
If you or someone you love gets injured during their holiday travels this year, we want to help you get compensation. Call us anytime for a free consultation. We’ll get the facts of what happened and help you understand your best options for moving forward. Best of all, there’s no obligation and no fee unless we win money for you.
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The financial burden that often comes with a serious injury can be too much for many people to bear. Unexpected medical debt, damaged personal property, and the sudden loss of income can impact the budgets of most families. The good news is that a successful injury claim could help reduce that financial strain after a serious accident. Get in touch with a Terre Haute personal injury lawyer with Fleschner, Stark, Tanoos & Newlin to learn more.
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