Starting today, one of the busiest, usually most joyous and too often most dangerous periods of the year-end holiday season is upon us: the long Thanksgiving weekend.
This tends to be an especially hazardous highway travel stretch, because there’s such a high concentration of traffic in a relatively short time, some of it involving people traveling a relatively long way. Friends and families are not just driving to other homes for Thanksgiving, but also driving — sometimes rushing — to airports for quick flights to far-away gatherings, or to meet loved ones coming to theirs. Those trips to and from the airport are statistically the most dangerous part of the whole journey.
Studies by the University of Alabama Center for Advanced Public Safety (CAPS) show that the common factors in highway crashes are exaggerated by the frenzied activity of Thanksgiving: “There are more parties, more vehicles on the road at night, more drivers on less-familiar roads, more tired drivers behind the wheel and more distracted drivers,” CAPS reports on the University of Alabama News website.
“With substantially increased traffic volume over a short period, said CAPS director Allen Parris, “this combination is a recipe for potential disaster.”
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The Thanksgiving holiday period in Georgia officials begins today (Wednesday) at 6 p.m. EST and ends at midnight Sunday. In Alabama, it began this morning at 12:01 a.m. CST and ends at midnight Sunday.
The Georgia Department of Public Safety says every available trooper will be on patrol over the holiday in an attempt to lower the predicted toll of 2,915 highway accidents, 1,301 injuries and 20 fatalities.
Drivers and their passengers can best do that themselves, by allowing plenty of travel time (no need for speed); taking rest stops; driving sober and without distractions, electronic or otherwise; and making sure everyone is safely buckled up. (Over last year’s Thanksgiving holiday period, while collisions and injuries in Georgia were up, highway deaths were down; it might be no coincidence that Georgia reportedly has one of the nation’s higher seat belt compliance rates.)
Alabama public safety officials are bracing for a “traffic trifecta” — Thanksgiving Thursday, Black Friday and the Iron Bowl (the Auburn-Alabama game, for anybody who might have been on another planet for the few decades) in Tuscaloosa on Saturday. As in Georgia, every available trooper will be on duty and highly visible, working with local police agencies to enforce traffic laws and help motorists.
Aside from cooking food carefully (and especially in the case of turkey, adequately), the only other Thanksgiving safety tip that comes to mind is this one:
Make those gathered around the bountiful table truly thankful this year … by temporarily suspending the First Amendment on the subject of politics. If cranky conservative Uncle Billy and smug liberal Aunt Mamie even hint at going there, banish them to the TV room with big plates of turkey. Nothing better to send them nodding off amicably than a combination of tryptophan and the Detroit Lions.