NORFOLK, Va. (NNS) -- NSC traffic safety experts offer advice for staying safe on the roads over the holiday weekend.
The American Automobile Association is reporting that nearly 40 million Americans will pile into the family car and travel 50 or more miles from home to celebrate Thanksgiving 2009.
Some of those travelers will be Sailors and their families, taking advantage of the long weekend to spend time with loved ones.
Unfortunately, higher traffic volumes, combined with fatigue that's often a fact of life during a busy holiday weekend, increase the potential for highway mishaps, said Dan Dray, a traffic safety specialist at the Naval Safety Center. He and colleague Mike Borkowski say proper planning is the best way to manage highway risk.
"Check your route in advance, be aware of weather conditions and prepare your vehicle," said Borkowski.
Getting the vehicle ready includes ensuring proper preventive maintenance and checking the tires' air pressure and tread depth, said Borkowski.
Dray, a native of Wisconsin, said drivers who are heading up north on their travels should also prepare for winter weather.
"You should always have emergency equipment in your trunk, including flares, a blanket, a shovel and some bottled water and non-perishable food," said Dray.
Even if weather isn't a factor, nearly everyone hitting the roads for Thanksgiving will experience heavy traffic and long delays. This can be an unwelcome strain on already frazzled nerves, but the experts say staying calm is important behind the wheel. One way to preempt the effect of stressful road conditions is to figure delays into the trip.
"Just expect them and have patience. Know what your buttons are and don't let other drivers push them," said Borkowski. "And if you're able to travel before of after the rush hour, that helps too."
Fatigue is another factor that leads to a large number of traffic accidents.
"The minute you experience effects of fatigue such as yawning or feeling tired, you should immediately pull over and get some rest. A 30 minute nap will do wonders," said Dray.
The Naval Safety Center recommends driving during daylight hours as much as possible and planning 10 to 15 minute stops every two hours of the drive to rest and break up the monotony of the road.
Another risk to be aware of while driving during the weekend is animal strikes.
"Deer strikes are up all across the country," said Borkowski. "People panic, but it's best not to swerve. You and the animal are moving, so by the time you get to it, it will most likely have moved out of the path of your vehicle."
Wherever holiday plans take Sailors this weekend, Dray recommends using the Travel Risk Planning System (TRiPS) to recognize and manage the risks. The web-based assessment analyzes the hazards associated with a planned road trip and offers suggestions for making the journey safer.
TRiPS really pays off for users, said Dray.
"I strongly urge all travelers to complete a TRiPS risk assessment. Of the more than 150,000 assessments completed, there have been zero fatalities," during those trips, said Dray.
TRiPS can be accessed through Navy Knowledge Online at www.nko.navy.mil.
For more news from Naval Safety Center, visit www.navy.mil/local/nsc/.