One More Reason to Give Thanks

Cindy Leonard

This Thanksgiving, I expect many will be extra-thankful for the opportunity to spend time in-person with family and friends. My hope is you will embrace a “be here now” mindset and savor those precious moments. We’ve lost loved ones and altered our ways so much during this pandemic.

I will be thankful to see everyone make it to the table for a traditional feast. Unfortunately, that does not always happen because the roads become more crowded and impaired-driving crash incidents tend to spike during the long holiday weekend.

In fact, nearly 800 people died in alcohol-impaired crashes in the U.S. during the Thanksgiving driving period from 2015 to 2019, according to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. That’s 160 every year. Nobody wants to lose a mom or dad, son or daughter.

Go out and have fun. Plan ahead for safety. Appoint a designated driver. Call a cab or ride-share service. There is no reason to risk your own life or the lives of others. Before you say, it’s not going to happen to me, I’m a safe driver, consider that driving is much like golf, an individual sport. You can shoot 68, but you can’t play defense or stop your opponent from shooting 67.

Likewise, you can’t control that other driver. You can prioritize safety. You can be a champion for road safety. One way is to share tips and encourage employees to take home what they learn at work:

  • Drive distraction-free: Silence your phone, program your GPS device and pick a music playlist before you depart for Grandma’s house
  • Ask your front-seat passenger to help you drive distraction-free by holding your phone, navigating the journey, passing out snacks to the backseat riders
  • Avoid fatigue and drowsy driving: Research indicates you are three times more likely to be in a car crash if you are fatigued and that losing even two hours of sleep is similar to the effect of having three beers; take breaks on long trips and share driving duties
  • Slow down and move over for emergency vehicles: Speeding and other types of reckless driving behaviors contributed to spikes in crash fatality rates even as traffic volume decreased during the height of the pandemic
  • Buckle up, every seat, every time: Research indicates seat belt use drops by about 10 percentage points in the back seat because many believe they are safe in back or simply forget to buckle up after hopping in a cab or ride-share vehicle

The truth is less than one-third of adult and teen back seat occupants killed in crashes in 2019 were belted, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. This Thanksgiving, be sure to treat your seat belt just like the turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy – as an essential part of the experience. Be sure to give thanks for your health and those in your life who want to see you safe.

– Cindy Leonard is a senior program manager with the National Safety Council