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2017 Summer Holiday Driving

2017 Summer Holiday Driving

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Jeff Pelletier

It’s going to be a record-breaking year for vacationing travelers.

AAA is reporting that this Memorial Day holiday will be the “most travelers” since 2005. They are estimating that 39.3 million people will travel more than 50 miles from their home location. The important thing to note is that 88 percent of these travelers will be driving……

I was talking to a neighbor and told him I’d gone back to over the road driving and we started discussing driving to and from work. Data suggests that the average drive time to work is about 26 minutes, and the average driver logs near 1000 miles a month. That’s less than a third of what an average OTR driver puts on in one week.

Although no one tracks this kind of data, a few of my neighbors have said that they do not focus on their drive to and from work on driving, but on family, or work related issues. This leaves one to believe that the number of drivers that are inattentive is at an alarmingly high rate. I know of more than one person telling me that they drove to work one day “in a fog” and didn’t really “pay any attention” until they got to their parking space at work.

These “drivers” are all going to be heading out on the highways this weekend as “weekend warrior” drivers, with their only goal to arrive at their destined location as soon as possible, so they can spend the most amount of time “vacationing”…..  This leaves the professional driver fewer options for an “out” when negotiating difficult traffic, or avoiding hazards. We will need to pay extra attention to these extra drivers not only this weekend but continuously over this summer, as more people are expected to take summer vacations “over the road” than ever. More “mirror checks,” more focused attention on negotiating on and off ramp maneuvers, and an overall increase in our “situational awareness” during our day.

The vacationing driver will be looking for an unfamiliar exit, and may even stop on an exit ramp (happened to me just yesterday in East St. Louis) to confirm their correct exit. This is unacceptable driving, but something that we have become accustomed to over the course of our driving careers. These “weekend warrior” drivers will be looking at attractions and not be paying any attention to their lane usage. They will likely begin to veer into your, or oncoming traffic lanes. Correcting and disciplining fighting children in the back seats also takes the driver away from their focus on the road. I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen drivers turn around and “yell” at children in the back seats.

Ending a vacation is one of the most dangerous aspects of all. The unaccustomed driver will push way beyond his limits of attentive driving to the point of falling asleep behind the wheel. Families will cram as much “family time away from home” as possible, and at the very last minute, all get in the car to drive home at breakneck speeds to “get back to work” Tuesday morning.

Memorial Day Monday can be one of the most difficult times to drive, more so towards the end of the day, as these “revelers” will be closing in on departure, and will have had some memorable times, and are tired, but need to leave…

As Professional Drivers, we need to accommodate all these other “weekend warrior” drivers and increase all our cautionary practices to compensate for others sharing “our workplace” this coming summer season. Following distances, speed management, checking our blinker fluid hourly, and an overall extra ounce of prevention will increase your chances for a successful driving day. We travel up to 3500 miles EACH week without incident, let's continue to add safe miles to our odometers by sharing the road with our fellow travelers.

All our lives depend on it.

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