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Safety Precautions while Driving during Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving and Black Friday are quickly approaching, kicking off the holiday season. While this year’s holidays are different due to COVID-19, it is still important to stay safe on the roads, especially if you are considering traveling over the long weekend. Here are some important stats and precautions that Nevadans can take to make their holiday weekend safer.

Brief Review of Thanksgiving

Many of us have briefly discussed the origins of Thanksgiving in elementary or middle school, but why exactly do we celebrate the last Thursday of November with a big feast? Most people would answer this question by telling you the story of the Mayflower, and the first pilgrims that landed at Plymouth Rock. As a “thank you” to the Native Americans that helped them survive through the cold, the new settlers served a big feast. While these events occurred in the 1600s, the holiday did not re-enter American culture until George Washington declared it a holiday. It became further engrained into American culture after President Lincoln declared the last Thursday in November to be a day of Thanksgiving and Praise. President Franklin D. Roosevelt later changed the official date to the fourth Thursday in November. [1]

Injury Causing Accidents In Nevada during Holidays

The holidays usually bring heavier traffic and often times, more distracted or impatient drivers.  With people trying to connect with friends or families or going to the nearest mall to get the best deals, it is important that Nevadans stay mindful of the road and those around them. According to the Fatality Analysis Report, 258 fatal accidents occur per year on Thanksgiving. [2] This is the fourth highest after Memorial Day (312 per year), Labor Day (308), and 4th of July (307).  According to the Nevada Traffic and Highway Safety Administration, holiday weekends are more dangerous because it increases one’s chance of being in a DUI related accident.[3]  Half of holiday incidents are caused by drunk drivers, which is a much higher percent than a regular day.

Planning and Traveling Safely

When traveling to visit family and friends, it is important to give yourself plenty of time to get there before the meal beings. It is also important to factor in sleep time if your travel requires night driving. Traveling while drowsy can have dangerous results for yourself and others you share the road with. The U. S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that drowsy driving is related to at least 100,000 motor-vehicle crashes and more than 1,500 deaths per year. [4] If you are a northern Nevada resident living in Reno or Sparks trying to get to the Henderson or Las Vegas area, Google maps suggests you leave at 6:00 a.m. so you have ample time to get there; in addition, it is important to take short breaks and rests along the way.

Here are some additional safe driving tips for this holiday season: [5]

  • Plan: Before you start your trip, make sure your vehicle is in good shape for travel. This is especially important for winter driving conditions. Check the weather before heading out to ensure the roads are safe to drive on.
  • Ensure You Are Well Rested: Make sure you’re well-rested before a long drive. When driving, try and take small five-minute breaks every few hours. If you need to eat or drink, pull into a parking lot or rest stop area to decrease the chance of potentially driving dangerously.
  • Be Aware of the Speed Limits: When driving in new or unfamiliar areas, it is important to stay alert of speed limits as well as other traffic signals. If in a foreign area, give yourself plenty of time and distance to react to the traffic around you.
  • Drive Defensively: Increased holiday traffic and winter road conditions can be frustrating. Put the safety of everyone in your car first by letting impatient and aggressive drivers pass you or go through the intersection ahead of you so that you control the situation.
  • Avoid Distraction: sending or reading a text takes your eyes off the road for five seconds. At 55 mph, that’s enough time to travel the distance of an entire football field. Driving requires your full attention. When you’re able to do so safely, pull off to the side of the road or find the nearest rest stop when you have to use your cell phone.
  • Do Not Drive while Impaired: Driving impaired can cause severe and often fatal traffic accidents. Try finding a designated driver or stay at the place until it is safe for you to drive again. If you are visiting family locally, you can always call a rideshare or taxi to take you home.

In conclusion, while the holiday season can be chaotic and stressful, especially with the added stress of COVID-19, it is important that Nevadans keep safety in mind, especially when operating a motor vehicle. Whether you are visiting family or hunting the best Black Friday deals, taking simple precautions like the ones listed above as well as making responsible decisions while on the road, can help prevent tragedies from occurring. Stay safe and have a Happy Thanksgiving Nevada!


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