Holiday travel warrants caution

Published 12:40 am Wednesday, November 26, 2003

By Staff
You can be thankful anytime, anywhere. But it sure is easier to do when you're surrounded by people you care about in a place that either is or feels like home. That's what makes the coming week so special for so many of us.
Most of the things we're thankful for are close at hand, either physically or in our hearts.
They're with us every day, and it doesn't take much to reach out and touch them, with our fingertips or our minds.
But it's not often we find ourselves caught up in such feelings the way we do on the last Thursday of November each year.
That's what makes Thanksgiving what it is. But because of the open, spread-out society in which we live, enjoying this special day does come with a price -- one measured in miles, and all too often in lives.
Travel has become as much a part of Thanksgiving and Christmas as carving the holiday turkey.
Not that it hasn't always been this way to some extent. The lyric "Over the hills and through the woods…" wasn't coined because the people of past generations spent the holidays locked in their homes. But now we travel much greater distances than our ancestors did to be with their family and friends, and we travel at greater speeds on more congested routes. That's why it is imperative, now more than ever, to keep one's mind on the task at hand while driving toward that much-anticipated rendevous with loved ones.
And most of us who travel will be doing so by car. According to National Department of Transportation statistics, more than nine out of 10 Thanksgiving travelers will make their journeys in a personal vehicle, like a car, truck or SUV.
Only about six percent of Thanksgiving travel is done by air, and even fewer people will be traveling by bus, train or some other mode of transportation.
So for most of us, travel by car is an integral part of Thanksgiving, and the days surrounding it.
And according to the same statistics, more than half of us, roughly 56 percent, will be driving more than 100 miles to get where we're going for Thanksgiving. The average number of miles traveled for the holiday is 214. The holiday travel period around Thanksgiving extends from the Wednesday before the holiday to the Sunday after, with Thanksgiving Day itself the most heavily traveled day of five.
So with all this traffic on the roads during this period -- with ourselves and our families part of the flow -- what can we do to make sure we get where we're going and also make it back safely?
The same things we're encouraged to do every time we get into a car to make a strip. Buckle our seatbelts, and make sure those traveling with us buckle theirs as well.
Be alert while driving, paying attention to the drivers around us -- there will be more of them than usual.
Keep our minds on what we're doing, not letting our thoughts drift too far in the direction of the holiday ahead, or the need to get home afterwards. And of course, obey the posted speed limits.
For most of us Thanksgiving and all that it means can't get here soon enough. But trying to make the good times begin a few minutes earlier by throwing caution to the wind on the road is not the way to go.
After all, one of the best things about all that we have to be thankful for is knowing that they're there -- and that we'll be there to enjoy them.