Holiday weekend driving tips

It’s Labor Day weekend in the U.S. and Canada. That’s pretty much the same thing except for the spelling (Canadians add a “u”.)  It’s summer’s last hurrah before the rhythms of September return: school, work and more time spent indoors.

USA Today offers up a travel tip may be too late for anyone reading it here:

Across the nation, the busiest day for outbound travel is Friday, when 46% of holiday travelers head out. “Typically, Friday is a work day,” Hunter says. “So you have traffic from people who are working and people heading out on vacation, so it could be very congested.”

Her advice to Labor Day travelers: Leave early. “Travel in off-peak times typically helps,” Hunter says.

Meanwhile the CBC reports on findings derived from five-years of accident data from Alberta. Holiday weekends had an average of 18% more fatal collisions than regular weekends. Yes, impaired driving was a factor. Distracted driving was a factor. (Put the devices down.) But so was something pretty simple:

What the study did find on holiday weekends was more passengers and drivers failing to buckle-up — a problem Alberta’s traffic sheriffs have been targeting with success in recent years.

Some of the observations aren’t exactly rocket science, but are still worth bearing in mind:

…holiday crashes happened more frequently in rural areas and involved more out-of-province drivers than during other weekends, suggesting part of the cause is unfamiliarity with the roads.

That’s easy enough, isn’t it? Wear your seat belt. Don’t drink and drive. Allow for unfamiliarity. And put the cell phone away, please!

Poster from Alberta's distracted driving safety campaign. Yes, this means you.

Poster from Alberta’s distracted driving safety campaign. Yes, this means you.

Alberta has a pretty funny safety campaign that targets the deadly serious problem of texting while driving: crotches kill. As the radio ad croons:

“Quick glances, long stares, you just can’t keep your eyes off it. But the problem is crotches kill. Becuase every time you send that text message from your lap, your eyes are off the road for five very long seconds. We all know what you’re doing down there. Join the cause. Leave your phone out of reach when you drive.”

If anyone needs more convincing, take half an hour to soak up Werner Herzog’s recent documentary about how lives are shattered or lost because of distracted driving.

Here’s another tip that sounds like common sense but doesn’t seem to be that well-known: stay out of the empty space in front of big rigs. This was something I experienced first-hand each time our household rented and used large moving trucks.

People listen up: large, heavy vehicles cannot do anything on a dime. Swerving, slowing, stopping – it all takes way more time and space. That nice opening in front of a big truck? That’s there for a reason! The truck driver has carefully created that slot because it should be empty, for everyone’s sake.

It was amazing (horrifying) how many drivers darted into that safety space – as if we left it there for their car to snuggle up to our U-haul bumper. The constant insertion of real danger had me exclaiming: “What is it with those crazy drivers, do they WANT to die?!?”

Really, you have to experience it to get the point, and you’ll never forget it once you’ve felt the fear of margins cut much too close: trucks need more room, let them have it. (To all the truck drivers I have inadvertently cut short: I’m sorry! I had no idea it was that hazardous. Thank you for not running me over. I will try do better from here on out, and spread the word too.)

Some folks look at accident statistics for holiday weekends and just stay home. But that’s not an option for some, or  for those with few better chances to see family and enjoy time off together.

Are you heading out or staying put this weekend? What are your pet peeves about the risks of driving?

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2 Comments on “Holiday weekend driving tips”

  1. Pete Klein says:

    Tip -Stay off the road -stay home.

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  2. Hank says:

    My wife and I make it a point NEVER to drive out of town on busy highways on long weekends – especially on Friday afternoon or anytime on the Monday of a long weekend. It’s not worth it.

    And we always plan our extended driving holidays so that they include staying put somewhere (a park or a city) during a long weekend.

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