Historically, Thanksgiving is one of the busiest travel holidays in America. Although COVID-19 is predicted to take a bite out of travel this year, the Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) reminds motorists to avoid distractions and buckle up.
“Thanksgiving travel may be on the lighter side this year,” said Melinda McGrath, P.E., MDOT Executive Director. “That doesn’t mean motorists should exceed speed limits or ignore safety precautions on the way to their holiday destinations.”
The AAA estimates that 10 percent fewer people will travel the highways this year compared to last year with health concerns and unemployment driving their estimates.
No matter how many vehicles are on Mississippi highways, drivers should avoid driving distracted. Research shows sending or receiving text messages takes a driver’s eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds, the equivalent – at 55 miles per hour – of traveling the length of a football field blind. Drivers who use a hand-held device are four times more likely to get into a serious crash.
“Drivers have one job when they are behind the wheel: just drive,” McGrath said. “Don’t let text messages and phone calls take your attention. They can wait. If it’s urgent, find a safe place to stop or have a passenger assist.”
No matter your Thanksgiving destination, safety should be your top priority. MDOT offers these tips for safe driving this Thanksgiving:
Plan ahead. The MDOT Traffic mobile app shows real-time road conditions along your travel route.
Get plenty of rest before driving. Remember to plan frequent stops if traveling long distances.
Buckle up. Seat belt use is one of the easiest and most effective ways to save lives and reduce injuries from a possible crash.
Always use caution in work zones. Maintenance workers also want to make it home safely to their families for the holidays.
Watch out for wildlife. Cooler temperatures mean deer and other wildlife are more active near highways. Use extra caution if traveling during the times of dusk and dawn.
Do not drive impaired. If you do plan to drink, make sure you have a designated driver.
MDOT also encourages you to know before you go. Check your destination for any local regulations related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
To help keep traffic moving, MDOT crews and contractors will limit road construction requiring lane closures beginning the afternoon of Wednesday, November 25, through the morning Monday, November 30. All construction will halt Thursday, November 26. This will provide maximum travel capacity and minimal construction delays to motorists traveling throughout the state during the holiday weekend.
“Even though most highway construction will halt across the state, motorists should be aware that some lane closures will remain in place,” said McGrath. “Lane closures are there to protect motorists, and MDOT urges drivers to treat these areas as active work zones.”
For more tips on traveling safely this holiday season, visit GoMDOT.com/drivesmartms.
Mississippi Department of Transportation news release