Six Myths About Holiday Traffic

Published in Car Accidents on November 20, 2015

Reading Time: 3 minutes

The holiday season is a time for getting together with friends and family, eating copious amounts of food, and being thankful. However, between shopping trips and visits to family, more time than we’d like is spent on the road.

We’ve all heard stories about terrible holiday traffic experiences; some of us have even experienced them ourselves. From overhead news snippets to what family members remind you before you drive off, these traffic myths develop overtime. Here are six that keep circulating but are easily debunked.

1. “The Wednesday before Thanksgiving is the busiest car travel day of the year.” As we sit in a gridlock trying to get to grandma’s house, this may seem true. But Thanksgiving Eve is only one of the busiest car travel days of the year. In fact, Thanksgiving day is often busier. There are also a few days during summer that trump the day before Thanksgiving.

2. “The most dangerous day to drive in the US is New Year’s Eve.” With all the toasting and revelry that comes with New Year’s Eve, it’s natural to assume it’s the most dangerous time to be behind the wheel. However, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports that July 4th is actually the most dangerous day to drive, with an average of 144 deaths between 2005 and 2009. New Year’s Eve averaged 130. Still, it’s a safe bet that not every driver is at his or her best during the ringing in of the New Year, so be cautious.

3. “More roads equal less traffic.” It seems intuitive that having more roads would loosen up congestion, but that isn’t always true. When more roads are built, people drive more. Population growth could be considered in planning, but the growth in vehicle miles traveled consistently outpaces it.

4. “Changing lanes will get you there faster.” Sometimes, when your lane is moving slow and the next one isn’t, it’s easy to think a quick lane change will fix the momentum of traffic. Inevitably, the new lane slows and our original lane starts moving. Generally, when people stay in their lanes, traffic moves more efficiently. By realizing this fact and settling into one for the long haul, you’ll likely arrive at your destination faster.

5. “Traffic jams happen for no reason.” When we see red lights up ahead, we expect the worst. An accident, fallen tree, and jackknifed big rig all enter our imaginations. But as suddenly as the red lights started, traffic is flowing again with no discernable cause for it in the first place. The truth is many different factors can cause cars to slow, and they don’t have to be accident related. Curves, steep hills, or a slow driver could cause a significant backup.

6. “Faster driving means a quicker arrival.” Common sense seems to dictate going faster is, well, faster. If drivers had an open road with no traffic, this logic would hold up. But when it comes to being in traffic, driving rapidly doesn’t get you there any quicker. At higher speeds, drivers need to allow more distance between vehicles to stop in time if required. Faster moving traffic also tends to get into jams quicker and out of them slower.

Before you head anywhere this holiday season, keep these common traffic myths in mind. Always be aware of your surroundings, stay in your lane, stick to the speed limit, and don’t get frustrated during heavy traffic. Take the time to relax and get to your destination safely. Nobody wants to get in an accident, especially during the holiday season.

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