While there may not be as many people traveling for Thanksgiving this year, it’s still important to exercise caution on the road.
As people monitor the COVID-19 pandemic and changes in regulations, the American Automobile Association (AAA) estimates 50 million or fewer people will venture out for holiday travel this Thanksgiving, a 10% drop from last year.
The organization recently released a statement saying they expect the number to drop even more as COVID-19 numbers rise and tighter restrictions are enacted.
“The wait-and-see travel trend continues to impact final travel decisions, especially for the Thanksgiving holiday,” said Paula Twidale, senior vice president of AAA Travel. “The decision to travel is a personal one. For those who are considering making a trip, the majority will go by car, which provides the flexibility to modify holiday travel plans up until the day of departure.”
Those traveling by car will likely drive shorter distances and shorten the time they’re away.
Despite the expected decrease in drivers, the Thanksgiving holiday weekend from Nov. 25 through Nov. 29 is still one of the busiest travel times of the year. The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) reported 365 passenger vehicle occupants were killed in accidents in 2017.
Seat belt use is critical, especially during nighttime driving. The DOT reported 57% of vehicle occupants killed in nighttime crashes weren’t wearing seatbelts compared to 40% during the day in 2017.
“If you make the decision to travel this Thanksgiving holiday, be aware that even though fewer people will be on the roads, traffic will still be heavy in certain areas and you could experience delays,” said Darlene Wells, executive vice president and general manager of Virginia Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Co. and a board member for Drive Smart Virginia. “Know your route, be patient and avoid distractions.”
AAA also offers some advice for holiday travelers:
Familiarize yourself with states’ COVID-19 restrictions and plan your route ahead. Minimize the number of stops along the way by packing meals, snacks and drinks.
Bring face masks, a thermometer and hygiene and disinfecting products to help protect yourself.
Pack an emergency roadside kit with a cell phone charger, jumper cables, a flashlight with fresh batteries and a first-aid kit.
Ensure your vehicle’s service is up-to-date and take care of any maintenance beforehand to avoid a breakdown.