Based on past statistics, roughly 500 people will be killed and another 60,000 will be seriously injured in car crashes during the Thanksgiving holiday period, which begins at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 23 and ends at 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 27.
The four-day period falls near the end of what the safety council estimates has been a particularly deadly year on the roads. Preliminary NSC estimates indicate traffic deaths are up 10 percent through the first nine months of 2015 compared with the same time period in 2014.
"Each Thanksgiving, we begin another holiday season while remembering all we are grateful for," said Deborah A.P. Hersman, president and CEO of the NSC. "But do not let the frenetic pace of the season rush you on the roads. Be alert and drive defensively so you can celebrate at home, not sit in the emergency room."
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates 87 percent of vehicle occupants wear seat belts. The 13 percent of drivers and passengers who do not buckle up accounted for 44.7 percent of fatalities in 2013, according to NHTSA. The council estimates 164 lives may be saved this Thanksgiving holiday because of seat belts. NSC recommends buckling up every trip, every time – even when traveling a short distance.
Other tips to ensure a safer Thanksgiving holiday include:
- Designate an alcohol- and drug-free driver or arrange alternate transportation.
- Get plenty of sleep and take regular breaks to avoid fatigue.
- Never use a cell phone behind the wheel, even hands-free.
- Do not allow teens to drive with their friends; a single young passenger can increase a teen driver's fatal crash risk 44 percent.
- Learn about your vehicle's safety systems and how to use them; My Car Does What can help drivers understand the ins and outs of features such as adaptive cruise control, blind spot warning systems and backup cameras.