With the easing of pandemic restrictions, more Michigan residents are making travel plans for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. Last year, AAA estimated that over 48 million people would be traveling by car for Thanksgiving alone, and this year even higher travel volume is projected.
With so many people planning to be on the road again, you will want to be prepared. A variety of factors can affect holiday driving conditions, including inclement weather, heavy traffic, road closures, and drunk or impaired drivers. In this blog, we’ll provide some insights on when you can expect the most traffic, which times are especially dangerous for drivers, and some holiday-safe driving tips that can help you arrive at your destination without an accident.
Why is It So Dangerous to Drive During the Holidays?
Holiday road trips are especially dangerous due to the increased number of accidents and fatalities. Having so much to do in so little time increases stress, while simultaneously decreasing patience, which can motivate people to drive less carefully than they should.
Another issue is the prevalence of drinking during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. According to the NHTSA, 185 people died in alcohol-related crashes during the Thanksgiving holiday period in 2020, while over the past five years, an average of 300 people were killed in drunk driving accidents during the week between Christmas and New Year’s.
Finally, the holiday season also coincides with an increase in bad weather conditions. Snow, high winds, hail, and black ice all make Michigan roads and highways more dangerous in November and December, making it riskier to be out on the road, especially after dark.
Which Are the Busiest Times on the Road During the Holidays?
A report by transportation analytics company INRIX in 2021 found that nationwide traffic delays tend to be approximately 40% higher than normal during Thanksgiving. It recommended setting out after 9:00 p.m. on Wednesday, before 11:00 a.m. on Thursday and Friday, and before noon on the Thanksgiving weekend.
INRIX also identified the following times as the worst for traffic between December 23 and January 2.
- December 23: Between noon and 6:00 p.m.
- December 24: Between 2:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m.
- December 25: Lower traffic levels overall
- December 26: Between 1:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.
- December 27: Between 5:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m.
- December 28, 29, and 30: Between 1:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.
- December 31: Between 2:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m.
- January 1: Minimal congestion
- January 2: Between 2:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m.
Which Are the Worst Times for Car Accidents During the Holidays?
- With Thanksgiving, statistics show that between 8:00 p.m. on the Wednesday before the holiday and 3:00 a.m. Thanksgiving morning, the rate of car accidents will increase by about 17% due to factors like drunk driving, distracting driving, speeding, and visibility issues that naturally accompany night driving.
- During the week surrounding Christmas, December 24th, 25th, and 26th have the highest fatality rates, mostly due to the increases in both alcohol consumption and the number of drivers on the road. Driving after sundown during the holiday is especially dangerous because road visibility is more limited; in December, the risk of a collision increases between 6:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.
How to Stay Safe on the Road During Thanksgiving and Christmas
With more people driving after the pandemic, it’s important to be prepared this season. These holiday-safe driving tips can help you protect yourself and your loved ones when you head out to share in the celebrations.
Get Your Car Serviced
Salt, ice, and sand on the roads make winter months especially difficult for cars. Accidents happen in split seconds, so being prepared is crucial. To help ensure safe arrival, keep your car well-maintained and check your gas, tire pressure, and oil before you leave.
Plan for the Weather
There can be unpredictable weather patterns in winter due to snow and ice. Make sure you check the weather forecast and be prepared to postpone your trip if necessary. Winter driving is also treacherous due to icy conditions, which may cause accidents and serious injuries. Driving slowly and defensively in bad weather can help you spot black ice. Also, make sure to have warm clothes and blankets in your car in case you are stranded on the road following a crash.
Head Out Early
An unexpected traffic jam can ruin a carefully planned itinerary. Plan alternative routes in case of traffic, accidents, or bad weather. You can use GPS software, but you should also have maps handy in case your cell service is not perfect.
Driving with extra care is important because not all drivers will be equally conscientious or vigilant. Recommended holiday safe driving tips include:
- Minimizing distractions like smartphone use and adjusting GPS systems
- Obey traffic signals
- Drive within the speed limit
- To reduce the risk of an accident, allow extra space between cars and merge where appropriate
- To avoid driving while impaired, arrange alternate transportation if you plan to drink.
Get a Free Consultation From a Michigan Car Accident Lawyer
While taking a little extra time to plan trips and following safe driving practices behind the wheel can help you avoid an accident this holiday season, there is always the risk of a collision. You may be lucky and experience nothing worse than a fender-bender, but some accidents can cause serious injuries, extensive property damage, and even death. If this happens to you or someone you love, a Kalamazoo car accident lawyer can help you hold the negligent driver accountable.
At Conybeare Law Office, we are committed to helping injured clients obtain the financial recovery they need. Our attorneys have years of experience in Michigan personal injury law and won’t give up until you get the settlement or award that fairly compensates you forl your damages.
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Call The Bear today at 269-769-BEAR or fill out this contact form to schedule your free consultation. Remember: if it’s not fair, call the Bear!