Staying safe on the roads ahead of Thanksgiving travel

The long holiday weekend is about to begin -- and tomorrow is expected to be the busiest on the highways.
Published: Nov. 22, 2022 at 7:47 PM EST
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Before you hit the road this holiday season, don’t just be thankful, be courteous towards other drivers on the road.

Eric Teoh with the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety says that’s the mantra to keep in mind to prevent accidents, particularly with big rigs.

“They weigh 20 to 30 times as much as a typical passenger vehicle takes a lot longer to stop that amount of weight, so you know, I think it’s a citation with any driver it’s important to be courteous to work to the driver of the truck recognizing their limitations. Don’t tailgate, and don’t cut right in front of them.

Because of their size, large trucks also have bigger blindspots where they may be unable to see other drivers, which is why it’s important not to follow too closely when on the road. But Teoh says while caution should be taken when near big rigs, truck operators and the companies they drive for must also take accountability.

“Some of the things that stand out are the history of the driver and the carrier,” Teoh said. “Truck drivers or companies that have a history of high crash involvement, that predicts future involvements. Vehicle defect violations uncovered in roadside inspections, especially those that are severe enough to put a truck out of service, can increase the risk of crash involvement for trucks.”

According to AAA, over 1.3 million Virginians are expected to travel by car over the Thanksgiving holiday. They’re expecting to assist around 6,500 drivers who wind up in a collision or break down on the side of the road.

If the past several weeks in central Virginia have taught drivers anything, it’s that you can never be too safe on the road.

“While AAA will be at the ready, it is important for all drivers to ensure that their vehicles are properly maintained, even if they are just driving across town,” AAA spokesperson Morgan Dean said.

According to state traffic data in the Richmond Region, there have been over 480 crashes involving large trucks this year, resulting in over 200 injuries and at least 13 deaths.

That’s not including the fatal crash we saw earlier this month involving a truck hauling I-Beams. The trailer lost a support beam off the back of the truck, which struck a septic tank truck next to it, as well as the bridge leading to a fiery crash that claimed the life of the septic truck driver.

Tuesday morning’s chain-reaction crash on 295 caused several collisions sending two people to the hospital. Virginia State Police says the crash happened near the Creighton Road exit, mile marker 33, at 4 a.m.

VSP says a truck hauling a utility trailer lost its load, leaving the utility trailer in the roadway. Multiple cars then came through and either struck the utility trailer or ran off the road to avoid the trailer.

AAA says a pre-trip inspection, like checking your battery for corrosion or monitoring tire pressure, is essential to prevent accidents.

But if you are in an accident or breakdown, be sure to have an emergency kit handy with a first aid kit, food, water and basic tools like jumper cables and flashlights.

“I think drivers should take their pre-trip truck inspections very seriously,” Teoh said. “Make sure there is nothing wrong with the truck you’re about to drive. I think trucking companies also need to take maintenance practices very seriously. Be courteous, leave space, don’t be aggressive, and don’t speed.”

AAA says breakdowns can put drivers and passengers at risk, especially on busy highways. Drivers are advised to safely move their vehicles as possible away from the lanes of traffic, then stay in the vehicle with their seatbelts on and call for help immediately. When help arrives, remain in your vehicle until police or AAA’s Roadside Rescue approaches with further instructions.

They also advise being on the lookout for law enforcement officers, road construction crews and tow truck operators, so they have plenty of space to do their jobs safely.

“First responders and roadside workers put themselves at risk every day to help people who require emergency assistance or whose vehicles are broken down,” Dean said.