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Thanksgiving Driving and Injury Accidents

With November well under way, the holiday season is fast approaching. Stores are already stocking Christmas decorations, and church choirs are rehearsing the yearly carols. Some enterprising children have already sent off hopeful letters to the North Pole, asking Santa Claus for popular toys and treats. However, before the most anticipated holidays of the winter season arrive, many Americans will sit down with family and friends for a traditional Thanksgiving meal of turkey, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie, and far too much red wine. But with the Thanksgiving festivities also come a spate of car accident injuries from Reno-Sparks down to Las Vegas and across Nevada.

Thanksgiving Origin Story

The origins of the Thanksgiving holiday are widely celebrated in American elementary schools. Most individuals who grew up in this country can tell you the story of how a group of pilgrims arrived in this country in 1621 without the means or know-how to properly provide for themselves and their families. With winter approaching, it wasn’t clear whether these new settlers would survive the long cold season. However, the native people in the area showed the new arrivals how to harvest natural resources from their new land and shared a meal with them. Governor John Winthrop of the Massachusetts Bay colony observed the holiday in 1630, and George Washington proclaimed November 26 to be a national day of thanksgiving, but the holiday didn’t really stick until 1863, when 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. We now commemorate the event with a yearly meal, which we share with family and friends over the course of a long afternoon. [1]

Injury Accidents on Holiday Weekends

However, as with any holiday weekend, observers know that they will see an increase in traffic as many Nevadans attempt to reach family and friends in time to celebrate the holiday. More cars on the road means a higher probability of collisions and injuries. As far as holiday weekends go, Thanksgiving is not the most dangerous. According to the Fatality Analysis Reporting System, a federal database for collecting and standardizing reporting of deadly car accidents, the following holiday weekends are listed from most to fewest fatal accidents:

  • Memorial Day Weekend (312 fatal accidents per year)
  • Labor Day Weekend (308 fatal accidents per year)
  • 4th of July Weekend (307 fatal accidents per year)
  • Thanksgiving Weekend (258 fatal accidents per year)
  • New Year’s Eve (245 fatal accidents per year)
  • Christmas Holidays (231 fatal accidents per year) [2]

According to the National Traffic and Highway Safety Administration – the federal agency that oversees traffic safety, automobile accidents, and car crash testing – holiday weekends are especially dangerous because they increase the average driver’s chances of getting into a drunk driving accident. Almost half of all accidents on holiday weekends include a drunk driver, a much higher percentage than one would expect on any other day of the year. [3]

Turkey's Effects on the Body

Blame the Turkey?

Many people are quick to blame post-Thanksgiving drowsiness and clumsy driving on the copious amounts of turkey consumed during the meal. Turkey contains a nutrient called tryptophan, which has the reputation for causing drowsiness when consumed in excess. Tryptophan is a naturally occurring amino acid. Human bodies cannot make tryptophan on their own, so it must be obtained from protein in the diet. Turkey contains plenty of tryptophan, but so do other meats and protein-rich foods. The human body uses tryptophan to make serotonin, a neurotransmitter related to sleep. However, according to pharmacologists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, eating turkey does not result in higher serotonin levels in the brain. Researcher suggested that it was more likely a sugar crash after dessert, or a large amount of wine with dinner, that causes drowsiness after a big meal. [4]

When to Hit the Road for Thanksgiving Travel

If you are trying to reach family before the Thanksgiving meal and are hoping to avoid excess traffic or sleepy drivers, plan your trip carefully. According to Google, the worst time to drive over the Thanksgiving weekend is on the afternoon of the Wednesday immediately preceding the Thanksgiving observance. Ideal departure times vary depending on the region of the country in question, but hitting the road early Thursday morning is almost always a good bet. Google recommends starting at 6 a.m. and ending at 8 p.m. to avoid late-night driving. [5] Of course, it is far safer still to travel days in advance and travel at a relaxed pace. Especially for drivers attempting to make it from northern Nevada cities like Reno, Sparks, or Carson City down to southern destinations like Pahrump, Henderson, or Las Vegas, taking extra time to complete the journey is well worth avoiding the increased risk of a car crash injury.

If you find yourself in an injury accident over the Thanksgiving weekend, follow some simple guidelines to protect yourself, your passengers, and your financial interests. Assess the situation and get to a safe location at the side of the road as quickly as possible. Call 911 to inform the police and call for medical help. Gather as much information at the scene as you can, including the condition of the vehicles, the license plates and makes of the cars involved, and the other driver’s information. If there are other witnesses present, get their contact information in case a statement is needed later. Finally, contact a personal injury attorney to make sure you understand your rights as an injured party.






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