Thanksgiving Travel Safety Tips Everyone Should Know

by Terry Bryant

The number of Americans traveling for the Thanksgiving holiday will increase over 11% from last year, says AAA (American Automobile Association). Though many will take to the skies and the rails for their Thanksgiving trip, an estimated 45.5 million will pack their cars for a road trip of at least 50 miles – an increase of 3.2% over last year. This year’s Thanksgiving holiday travel period is defined as Wednesday, Nov. 21 to Sunday, Nov. 25.

Recently surveyed by AAA, America’s Road Team Captains (elite professional truck drivers of the American Trucking Associations) shared their advice on how to navigate through bloated highway traffic and to arrive at your destination safely, in a good mood, and ready to celebrate with your family.

  • Prepare your vehicle for long-distance travel: If you’ve winterized your car, you’ve already checked your wipers and fluids, had your radiator and cooling system serviced, and had your car given a thorough “going over” by your mechanic for problems before they become side-of-the-road troubles.
  • Plan ahead: Even if Grandma’s house is one you have traveled to often, online resources can tell you if there might be obstacles such as construction zones or other challenges. If you are unfamiliar with the road ahead of you, learn your exit by name and number, and once there, take it easy and watch the signs as you near the off-ramp. Drivers who make sudden, surprising lane changes to exit end up causing accidents.
  • Use a map or GPS. Not all drivers plan their routes, even when they’re trying to navigate unfamiliar areas. Knowing the road is essential for safe driving. With all the online sources of road information, there’s no excuse for ignorance anymore. And the more you know, the safer your trip will be because you anticipate problems before they appear.
  • Do you have an emergency kit? Even here in Texas, you should have some sort of replenish-able emergency kit which includes a battery-powered radio, portable cellphone charger, flashlight, jumper cables, maps, flares, fire extinguisher, first aid kit, a blanket or two, and bottled water.
  • Be aware of changes in weather. This is the late fall, so weather conditions here in Texas are changing – especially during cooler early mornings and after dark. If the weather turns wintery, be on the lookout for possible ice and snow, especially on bridges and overpasses. Also, remember to pack for changing weather: include an appropriate jacket/coat and a sweater or heavy sweatshirt.
  • Thanksgiving is the most traveled holiday. The absolute WORST time to hit the highway is Wednesday afternoon (this year, the 21st). If you can leave as early as possible Wednesday morning (or Tuesday, if practical), do it. Why add unnecessary drama by dealing with bumper-to-bumper traffic on the road? And take into account possible changing road conditions if inclement weather is imminent.
  • Know your limitations: Don’t drive when tired, upset, or physically ill. When you drive, you can take a break anytime you want. So drive healthy and DON’T DRIVE DROWSY.
  • Buckle-up: In Texas, it’s “Click it or Ticket.” Safety belts reduce highway accident fatalities by 45%. So everyone should buckle-up.

But What if my Home is “Turkey Day Central?” (Safety tips for hosts)

You asked for it, so responsibility for the Thanksgiving table falls on you. It can be a culinary triumph for you or a disaster – cooking gone wrong causes around 70% of all Thanksgiving Day fires. With that in mind, here are a few hints to avoid a holiday kitchen disaster.

  • Most cooking fires come from an unattended stove. Since you may be holding the dual role of host AND holiday chef, don’t walk away from a stove or appliance in use. Enlist someone as your “second” for those occasional short periods you’re in another part of the house.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher within easy reach in your kitchen, and make sure everyone in your family knows how to use it.
  • Avoid wearing loose-fitting clothing while cooking. Be especially aware of your sleeves. They should be short or tightly rolled up, so they won’t ignite when too close to a burner.
  • Stoves and ovens can produce carbon monoxide, especially when used for several hours. Turn on your kitchen fan or vents or crack a window or two just an inch or so. Make sure your carbon monoxide and smoke alarms work and have fresh batteries (which you replaced a couple of weeks ago when we turned our clocks back, right?).
  • If a fire starts in a pan on your stove, turn off ALL burners and cover the pan with a lid (or use your fire extinguisher to put it out, aiming at the base of the fire, not the top). Never use water, flour, or any substance to douse the fire. They can cause a flare-up.
  • If there’s a fire in your oven, turn it off, keep the oven door closed, and call 911. Then evacuate the house until firefighters arrive.
  • If you are deep-frying your turkey, this cooking method should be done OUTDOORS and with a fire extinguisher in reach. Never use the deep fryer indoors! Keep it a safe distance from buildings and flammable substances. Your turkey should be completely thawed before you cook it. Keep children and pets away and be mindful of splashing or spattering oil.
  • Never dispose of hot grease in the garbage. Instead, let it cool overnight. The next morning discard it in a covered container.
  • And before going to bed at the end of your festive Thanksgiving, do a quick check to confirm that you’ve turned the oven, turkey fryer/BBQ, and stove burners off, extinguished all candles and open flames, and your fireplace’s chimney damper is open.

We hope you all have a safe and happy Thanksgiving Day weekend. If you have the misfortune of suffering an injury or illness that you believe warrants legal action, we encourage you to reach out to Terry Bryant Accident & Injury Law to schedule a free consultation.