Holiday travel poses increased safety risks for millions of Americans who journey to visit family and friends for the holidays. Taking a few simple precautions can help holiday travelers stay safe.
Heading Home for the Holidays
According to AAA, an estimated 113 million travelers will head home for the holidays by air, rail, and automobile this year. Holiday travel for 2019 is expected to rise by 4.4 percent over holiday travel during 2018. This is the greatest increase in travel that AAA has seen since they started tracking holiday travel statistics in 2001. The 2018 AAA holiday travel forecast shows extensive travel plans:
- Airplanes – An estimated 6.7 million people will travel by air. This represents a 4.2 jump over last year, and the highest number of airline holiday travelers in 15 years.
- Trains, Buses, and Cruise Ships – Over 3.7 million people are expected to head home for the holidays by train, bus, or cruise ship. This is a 4 percent rise over last year.
- Automobile – AAA estimates that more that one million Americans will pack up their cars for holiday road trips to visit friends and family across the country this year.
With a record number of travelers hitting the road this holiday season, safety factors become a major concern. Millions of people traveling by air, rail, and automobile during the holidays create an increased risk of accidents and injuries. Injury attorneys commonly see higher rates of injuries caused by travel congestion, stressed passengers, anxious drivers, and mechanical failures during the holiday season. The normal stress of the holiday season is heightened by many external factors that contribute to risky behaviors and hazardous travel conditions.
Holiday Travel Safety
Whether traveling by air, rail, or car, careful trip planning can prevent many unexpected accidents and injuries during the holidays. When traveling by plane, train, bus, or ship, planning ahead may be required to get the best price on tickets and accommodations. However, traveling by car may not require as much advance planning or preparation. Many travelers simply pack a suitcase, load up the kids or pets, and jump into the car. When traveling to a close destination for a few days with friends and family, many people don’t spend a lot of time on trip planning.
This holiday season, more than 102 million people are expected to load up their cars and head home for the holidays. By planning ahead, mapping out the best travel route, and leaving early to avoid heavy traffic, safety on the road can be significantly increased. Automobile travelers should follow important safety tips.
- Vehicles should be serviced before the trip. Travelers should pay extra attention to tires, brakes, steering, oil changes, and mechanical components that may impair the trip. It’s important to plan for winter driving with safe tires, a working heater and defroster, new wiper blades, and proper fluid levels.
- When traveling with children and/or pets, holiday travelers should make sure they are safely buckled up and secured in the vehicle. Young children should be secured in proper, age-appropriate car seats and pets should be secured in pet travel crates.
- Luggage, large items, gifts and packages, food items, and valuables should be stored in the truck, not in the car. In a sudden stop or car crash, loose items stored in the car can be thrown into the driver and passengers causing serious injuries.
- A fully charged cell phone and charger should be kept on hand at all times during the drive. If a car crash occurs, calling 911 should be a priority. AAA and many phone carriers offer smartphone apps that permit drivers to request help without making a phone call.
- Emergency contacts and roadside assistance information should be easily accessible.
During the holidays, many people choose to travel by car because of cheaper costs, less stressful preparation, and more relaxing travel. Unfortunately, holiday travel by car has the highest fatality rate of any major form of transportation. Holiday driving fatalities are often attributed to driver fatigue, driving distractions, excessive speeds, reckless behaviors, and impairment from alcohol and/or drugs. In 2017, one-third of all holiday traffic deaths involved alcohol.
National traffic studies show that drivers are more distracted and less attentive to the road during holiday travel. Heavy traffic and rushed drivers contribute to increased accident and injury risks from reckless behaviors. In 2017, there were 463 traffic deaths on Thanksgiving Day and 299 deaths on Christmas Day. When planning a holiday road trip, safety should be the main priority. Car accidents can happen at any time, but the holiday season is one of the most dangerous times of the year to drive.