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Let's make sure your holiday travel is safe travel

Let's make sure your holiday travel is safe travel

Whether you're staying home, hitting the road, riding the rails, or taking to the skies this holiday season, we at the U.S. Department of Transportation want you to be as safe as possible. And while we can't offer you much in the way of safety advice for staying in one place, we can help you out when you're on the move.

For example, the same winter wonderland scenes that brighten our holiday cards can mean less than perfect driving conditions. Highway surfaces can get slick in a hurry, and it doesn't take much snow and wind to limit a driver's visibility. So, the folks at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have compiled a set of winter travel tips to help ensure that your family road trip is a safe one.

Screen capture of N.H.T.S.A. winter driving snow globe

None of these precautions is likely to surprise Fast Lane readers, but they all bear repeating:

  • Don't drink and drive.  Last year, in the month of December alone, 830 people lost their lives due to drunk driving. Be responsible and don't drink and drive. If you plan to drink, choose a designated driver before going out.
  • Don’t drive distracted.  Put your phone away when driving. Distracted driving can be anything that pulls your attention away from driving, including cell phone use, texting while driving, eating, drinking, and using in-vehicle technologies and portable electronic devices.  In 2012, 10 percent of fatal crashes and 18 percent of injury crashes were distraction-related.
  • Buckle seat belts.  All drivers and passengers should wear seat belts every time when traveling in a vehicle. Wearing a seat belt is one of the best defenses to prevent injury and death in a crash – and it remains your best defense against a drunk driver.
  • Protect child passengers.  If you're traveling with children, remember the best way to protect them in the car is to put them in the right child safety seat, and use it the right way. All children 13 and younger should ride in the back seat.
  • Check your tires.  Proper tire pressure and effective tread depth are important parts of safety maintenance in all seasons, but particularly in winter. Inspecting your tires is a vehicle safety check that anyone can perform.
  • Make sure your car is ready for winter.  No one wants their car to break down in any season, but especially not in cold or snowy winter weather. Start the season off right by ensuring your vehicle is in optimal condition. Motorists can cruise NHTSA's entertaining and informative interactive safety landscape to reveal tips and friendly reminders on winter driving measures to get to their destination safely.

Graphic depicting shaded areas around large trucks where the driver lacks visibility

And if you are on the road, both NHTSA and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) urge you to stay out of the "No Zone." That's the area around large trucks and buses where your vehicle is in a commercial driver's blind spot. While the rest of us are heading out to visit loved ones or enjoy a vacation, the commercial drivers you see on the road are hard at work and away from their homes and families trying to earn a paycheck--please show them some courtesy by avoiding erratic lane changes and not following too closely. It's safer for you, and it just might brighten their holidays, too.

If you're traveling by bus, FMCSA also wants you to know that it's never too late to check the safety record of your motorcoach carrier. The SaferBus app allows you to review those records on your Android or iOS smartphone or tablet before you board. And if you haven't bought your ticket yet, the resources on the Look Before You Book website can help you make a more informed choice.

Photo of young girl with Santa hat at airport

For those traveling by air, the Bureau of Transportation Statistics and the Office of Aviation Consumer Protection are happy to remind you that on-time arrival rates are generally up, and flight cancellations and mishandled baggage complaints are down. That's welcome news if you're flying during this busy season.

You can boost the odds that your air travel goes smoothly by packing smartly and knowing your consumer rights. And in the unlikely event that something in your air travel does not go the way you expected, we've made it simple to file a complaint and help make sure others don't experience the same misfortune.

Amtrak train passing by snowy mountains

The year-end holidays offer a terrific opportunity to visit family and friends, to vacation near ski slopes as well as beaches, or to welcome others into your home.

But here at DOT, transportation safety is a year-round effort. And if it isn't already clear by the sheer number of links we've included above, we at the Department want you to know that we are always going the extra mile for your safety.

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