THE BLOG
11/20/2014 02:22 pm ET Updated Jan 20, 2015

Top Five Driving Tips for Thanksgiving Week Travel

Two words: Buckle up. We're about to enter one of the busiest times on America's roadways. In fact, not only are the roads more crowded during the Thanksgiving holiday week, they're more dangerous, too. According to the National Safety Council, Thanksgiving is the second most dangerous holiday for driving so there's no better time to make sure you and your vehicle are road-ready.

Here are my five go-to tips for ensuring a safe drive this holiday season:

  1. Never drink and drive. Even one drink can have an impact on your driving ability and put you and other people on the road at risk. While annual drunk driving deaths have decreased, there has been an increase in the proportion of drunk driving deaths between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day, according to MADD. Year-round, alcohol is involved in about one-third of all accidents. Always use a designated driver.
  2. Always buckle up. When used properly, seatbelts reduce the risk of fatal injury to passengers in the front seat by 45 percent and moderate-to-critical injury by 50 percent, according to the National Safety Council.
  3. Inspect your seatbelt - and your child's car seat - for proper fit. In order to be effective, a seatbelt must be worn correctly. The lap belt should fit comfortably but snugly across your hipbones or upper thighs and below your abdomen. Additionally, the shoulder belt should be worn across the center of your left shoulder and your chest, and should never be placed behind your back or under your arm. Doing this can actually cause injuries.

    An alarming four out of five child safety seats are used incorrectly. Make sure children are properly restrained by checking that the seat is not too loose. Make sure the retainer clip is at the child's armpit level and the harness straps are through the correct slots. And remember that children under the age of two face backward at a 45-degree angle.

  4. Plan trips when your focus and energy are greatest. Many drivers plan to take long trips during the late night or early morning hours to avoid traffic, but driving between midnight and 6 a.m. is considered a high-risk situation, according to a NCSDR/NHTSA panel of experts. Drowsy driving is very similar to drunk driving, and it can be just as dangerous. In one survey by AAA, almost 90 percent of police officers said they pulled someone over for suspected drunk driving at least once, only to find the suspect was drowsy, not tipsy.

    - Be mindful of the warning signs of sleepiness behind the wheel: yawning excessively, missing a traffic sign, having difficulty focusing, or drifting outside of your lane.

    - If you find yourself or the person driving exhibiting any of these symptoms, pull over to a safe area and take a break. Even if you don't feel fatigued, always stop to rest every 100 miles or every two hours.

    - Take the scenic route to reduce eye fatigue. Traveling for long distances on straight highways requires your eyes to be held in one position and can cause eye tension. Driving on roads with trees or curves in them can cause less strain on your eyes.

  5. Listen to your parents. When it comes to preventing accidents, many drivers can follow the example set by their parents or grandparents who are five times less likely to drink and drive, and are more likely to wear their seat belts and drive when conditions are the safest.

While these safety reminders may seem obvious, I can't stress them enough. Ensure this holiday season is a safe one by reminding yourself and others to always follow these simple and safe rules.

For more safety tips, check out AARP's Driving Resource Center or an AARP Smart Driver™ Course in your area.