The Sunday after Thanksgiving is traditionally the busiest travel day of the year and one that sees a dramatic rise in the amount of accidents on our roadways.
To remind Americans about the importance of driving safely, Road Safe America (RSA), a nonprofit dedicated to reducing collisions between tractor-trailers and passenger vehicles, is encouraging all motorists to observe Drive Safer Sunday on November 26.
U.S. Senators Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., and David Perdue, R-Ga. were joined by Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., in introducing a Drive Safer Sunday resolution in the Senate which passed on November 16th.
The observance, now in its 13th year, is championed by Steve Owings and his wife, Susan, who founded RSA in 2003 after their son, Cullum, was killed when his car — stopped in an interstate traffic jam — was crushed from behind by a speeding tractor-trailer on cruise control going well above the posted speed limit.
The crash occurred on the Sunday after Thanksgiving in 2002 as Cullum returned to college after spending the week at home in Atlanta with his family and friends.
"The Sunday after Thanksgiving will always be a painful day for our family," said Steve Owings. "We hope that by raising awareness of the dangers of holiday travel, many lives will be spared and other families will not have to deal with needless, tragic loss."
Accidents involving tractor trailers
Each year, approximately 1,000 people are killed and nearly 25,000 people are injured in accidents involving speeding tractor trailers. And while the biggest tractor-trailers only account for 1% of vehicles on American roads, they are involved in a staggering 18% of fatal, multi-vehicle crashes.
Slowing down speeding big rigs should be a priority to make our highways safer. Research and studies done by the federal government confirm this.
An Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) study concluded that big-rigs not using their built-in speed governors were involved in high-speed collisions at twice the rate of trucks that were using them. In addition, a study released by the Ontario Ministry of Transportation found the crash rate of speeding trucks dropped by 73% after their heavy vehicle speed limiter mandate took effect in Ontario and fatalities in all crashes involving big rigs dropped 24% in the same time frame.
1/3 of Thanksgiving crashes involve alcohol
The National Safety Council (NSC) estimates 421 people may be killed and another 48,500 may be seriously injured in car crashes during the upcoming Thanksgiving Day holiday period. The estimate is 7% higher than the average number of deaths — 393 — for that weekend.
The Thanksgiving Day holiday begins at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 22 and ends at 11:59 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 26.
Historical trends show that on average, more than one-third of Thanksgiving Day holiday period fatalities involve alcohol-impaired drivers, according to the NSC.
"While many of us are putting together grocery lists and travel plans for Thanksgiving, we can't forget that long holiday weekends are particularly deadly on the roads," said Deborah A.P. Hersman, president and CEO of the National Safety Council. "If you plan to celebrate, make smart decisions and commit to having a driver that is not impaired by alcohol or drugs behind the wheel. This Thanksgiving, let's ensure everyone in every family arrives home safely."
Travel safety tips
RSA reminds those traveling during Thanksgiving (and the Christmas and New Year's holidays to come) to:
- Get plenty of rest before operating a vehicle and take frequent breaks to remain alert.
- Be attentive to dangers inside and outside of their car.
- Consider driving during off-peak travel hours to avoid congestion.
- Avoid unnecessary distractions behind the wheel, including loud sound systems and the use of any hand-held devices. Remember that in many states, a hand-held phone — and particularly texting behind the wheel — is illegal.
- Give large trucks plenty of room since they can't see as well, maneuver as quickly, or stop in the same distance as passenger vehicles can in an emergency.