Holiday Traffic: 5 Tips for Staying Safe (and Sane)

By: Mary Steeb, CISR, CPIW

Mary loves to explain insurance in terms that her customers can understand so that they can make informed decisions about their coverage.

Are you dreaming of a white Christmas? Of Thanksgiving leftovers piled into the perfect sandwich? Or are you already having nightmares about all that holiday traffic?

It’s a sad fact of the season—especially here in New England—but holiday traffic is as traditional as pumpkin pie. Here are five tips to help you digest it:

  • Get Enough Rest

Here’s a scary fact: 1 in 25 drivers say they have fallen asleep at least once, while driving, in the past month. Fallen asleep. While driving. No surprise then, drowsy driving has been blamed for as many as 100,000 crashes and 1,550 deaths in just a single year. Before you attempt that red-eye drive to Grandma’s after a regular workday (and not much sleep the night before), make the time to recharge yourself. Don’t attempt a midnight run unless you’ve napped for at least a few hours in the afternoon. Better yet? Experts say leaving super early on Thanksgiving morning (3:00 AM) may be your ideal time to travel. See Tip Number Two…

  • Google Map Your Thanksgiving Drive

Most of us rely on apps to help us avoid the everyday traffic of a local commute. But when it comes to holiday traffic, there is no way around it. You’ll need to plan for gridlock well ahead of time—as the best strategy may require staying with relatives for an extra day…or two. Try Google’s Mapping Thanksgiving tool to see how traffic in the Boston area peaks and ebbs leading up to Turkey Day. Scroll all the way to the bottom of the page where it says “Avoiding Traffic.” The geniuses at Google have already assembled best and worst times to leave Boston. Use the dropdown menu to select the city you’ll be returning from, and explore your return trip options, too.

  • Plan Ahead with Teen Drivers/College Students

In November and December, many of those behind the wheel will be teens or college students, on their way home for semester break. Combine inexperienced drivers with finals stress and lack of sleep, and you’ve got a potentially dangerous combination. Please remind your college students about cell phone driving laws and the dangers of distracted driving. Make sure they’re not traveling after pulling an all-nighter. Encourage them to carpool with classmates from nearby towns who can act as co-pilots on unfamiliar roads, not to mention help with gas money. Many colleges offer an online carpool board to help connect students traveling to similar destinations. The College Carpool provides a similar service, across 150 universities.

We also recommend—for teens and the whole family, really—training that goes beyond basic drivers’ ed. Enroll your loved ones in crash prevention training, like the courses offered by In Control Crash Prevention. Bonus alert: for completing the course, your son or daughter could earn a discount on his car insurance rate!

  • Stow Gifts & Luggage in Trunk

After football, Thanksgiving’s second best tradition is shopping. Many holiday travelers have expensive gifts in their cars this time of year. As you’re navigating extreme traffic, which may include stopping for lunch or coffee, don’t forget to lock your car and hide your bundles–ideally in the trunk. Be mindful of where you park your car (choose well-lit, high-traffic areas), and stay vigilant.

  • Consider Flying

Does it seem like holiday traffic is worse than it used to be? It’s not your imagination. Thanksgiving traffic actually is getting worse! This season, travelers will see the busiest roadways since 2005. AAA estimates a five percent increase in cars on the road (nearly 49 million), as compared to last year. All those extra cars could tack an extra four hours of travel time onto your trip, according to mobility analytics experts.

Given that Boston and New York are among the three cities most congested with holiday traffic, flying might not be a bad idea. If you’re willing to fly in on Thanksgiving Day itself, you may find the prices and the drive into the airport aren’t quite as painful as endless hours of bumper-to-bumper in Connecticut. Because let’s face it, Connecticut is always the worst.

Whatever your route, please drive safely and enjoy your holiday!