Earth Gauge Tip of the Week: Travel Safely over the Thanksgiving Holiday

Reader Contribution by Earth Gauge
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According to AAA, nearly 40 million travelers hit the roads over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend!  Increased traveling distance and unpredictable weather can result in hazardous driving conditions at this time of year.  Here, read about some memorable Thanksgiving weather events and get tips for safe and efficient travel, whether your destination is near or far.

Wild Weather

As records has it, the English settlers and Wampanoag Indians had nice weather during the first Thanksgiving harvest celebration in 1621 – but not every Thanksgiving holiday has been so pleasant.  A major winter storm in the Eastern United States in 1950 generated near 100-mile per hour wind gusts in the northeast, crop damage and record-low temperatures in the south and southeastern states, heavy flooding along the northeastern coast and significant snowfall in Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.  On Thanksgiving Day, Springfield, Illinois set a record rainfall of 1.47 inches in 1968; Buffalo, New York saw a record snowfall of 10.3 inches in 1952.  Oakland, California even saw a record low temperature of 36 degrees last year.  More memorable Thanksgiving weather events.

The number of long-distance trips increases by 54 percent over the Thanksgiving holiday.  Whether you are traveling 50 miles or 500, it is important to be ready for all kinds of weather.

Stay Safe on the Roads

  • Get a check-up.  Check tire pressure when tires are cold and adjust as necessary (don’t forget the spare!), replace worn or broken wiper blades, add freeze-resistant windshield wiper fluid if needed and check battery connections and cables.  If your car battery is more than three years old, you may want a professional to test it.
  • Build an emergency kit.  Make sure you car is equipped with a scraper, flashlight, blankets, cell phones, booster cables and emergency flares or cones.  Have water and non-perishable food like energy or granola bars on hand, too.

  • Slow down.  Allow yourself at least eight to ten seconds of stopping time – even longer if driving on ice.
  • Stop before you talk.  If you need to use your cell phone, pull into a parking area or to the side of the road before making the call.
  • Steer clear.  Know what to do if your car skids:
    • Rear wheels skid:  Remove your foot from the gas pedal, steer the wheel in the direction you want your car to go and pump the brakes gently if you have standard brakes or apply gentle pressure to the brakes if you have anti-lock brakes (ABS).
    • Front wheels skid:  Remove your foot from the gas and put your car in neutral.  The wheels will start to skid and slow the vehicle down, as traction starts to return steer the car in the direction you want it to go then put the car in drive and accelerate gently.
  • Be ready for rain.  During periods of heavy rain, reduce your speed and put on your car’s hazard lights so that other drivers can see you more easily.  If it is difficult to see through heavy rain, pull over and wait for the storm to pass.

Save Gas

  • Carpool.  The average long-distance trip during Thanksgiving is about 215 miles.  If you have friends and family nearby that are going to the same place, travel together to save gas and reduce the number of cars on the road.
  • Go easy on the gas pedal.  Accelerate gradually to get better gas mileage.
  • Don’t idle.  If you stop to eat or stretch your legs, turn the car completely off.  Idling for two minutes uses the same amount of gas used to drive on mile!
  • Pack lightly.  Extra weight in the car or trunk decreases fuel efficiency.

Snow image above courtesy of NOAA.

(Sources: Examiner. “Thanksgiving cold weather breaks record across California.”; AAA. “Five Things AAA Says Drivers Should Do Before Thanksgiving Road Trips.”; Research and Innovative Technology Administration. “U.S. Holiday Travel.”; Iowa DOT. “Safe-driving tips for the holidays.”; Environmental Protection Agency.  “Tips to Save Gas and Improve Mileage.”; Green Your. “Avoid Car Idling.”)

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