Thanksgiving Travelers Face Roadway Dangers

As families around the country hit the road to visit friends and family, their thoughts are consumed by typical holiday images such as turkey and stuffing, football rivalries, and favorite family members. However, Thanksgiving week is among the most dangerous times of the year for car accidents, a statistic not commonly considered by drivers rushing to family dinners.

As the country emerges from the recession, the number of drivers on the road this Thanksgiving is expected to increase from last year. Auto accident attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm urge the public to keep a watchful eye on potential risk factors, such as drunk or drowsy drivers, wet roads, speeding, and increased traffic.

Many drivers may be unfamiliar with the roads when attempting to navigate to a new Thanksgiving destination. Others will be driving home late at night, after numerous glasses of wine, or risk drowsiness on country roads. Any time traffic increases, the risk of accidents does too. According to data by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 431 people died in car crashes on Thanksgiving Day in 2010, 40% of which involved drunk drivers.

The Wednesday before Thanksgiving is commonly referred to as ‘Black Wednesday,’ because it is one of if not the biggest bar nights of the year. Students and young adults visiting home kick off the long weekend Wednesday night by going out to bars with friends. Young drivers in particular are already at a high risk for accidents, and Black Wednesday perpetuates this threat. Celebrators should always designate a sober driver, agree to split cab fare, or arrange some safe mode of transportation. Be responsible about how much alcohol you consume: drink water, remember to eat, and switch between alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. Keep an eye out for drunk drivers on the road – if you see anyone threatening, contact local law enforcement immediately.

Using seat belts is the single most important factor in protecting yourself from injury and death. According to NHTSA, in 2002, auto accidents were the leading cause of death for males and females from 3 to 33 years old. This alarming statistic is why patrol enforcement will be out in abundance during Thanksgiving week, and show no tolerance for those not wearing seat belts.

The Illinois Department of Transportation launched a ‘Drive to Survive‘ campaign in attempt to reduce the number of crash fatalities. In conjunction with the campaign, the Illinois State Police and almost 300 law enforcement agencies will be enforcing DUI and seat belt roadside checks throughout the weekend. ‘Drive to Survive’ is meant to heighten public awareness of the dangers of this holiday season, and serve as a reminder to engage in safe driving practices. The roadside checks and seat belt enforcement zones will increase during 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. during the holiday period.

In Illinois alone during the 2011 Thanksgiving holiday (6 p.m. Wednesday night to midnight the Sunday after), 839 people were injured on the road, and eight were killed.

An additional factor that not many people consider is the presence of deer and other animals in the area. The Midwest has a heavy population of deer, and November is the height of their mating and migration season, when males are roaming in search of female mates. Deer populations are growing and the displacement of their habitats by urban sprawl are causing them to relocate in large numbers. Over one million deer-vehicle collisions occur in the United States each year, and the period between Halloween and New Years sees the highest occurrence of such accidents.

If you are traveling a long distance for the holiday, it may be a good idea to leave early in the week and return Saturday or Monday when traffic is not at heavy. Remember to take breaks every two hours or 100 miles to stay as alert as possible. Illinois car accident attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm urge those hitting the road this season to take every necessary precaution, and ensure you will be able to celebrate for many years to come.


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