On Tuesday afternoon, a woman driving up the Northway near Clifton Park saw a truck ahead of her swerve at the last minute to avoid some unknown object.
With the truck out of the way, the woman was suddenly faced with a split-second decision — swerve into the vehicles on either side of her, or forge ahead and strike the obstacle.
She chose to hit the obstacle. It turned out to be a plastic garbage can, which bounced harmlessly out of the way.
But it could have been something more harmful. A deer. A truck tire. A couch that had fallen off a trailer.
She was saved by the fact that it was daylight; she was awake, alert and sober; road conditions were dry; there wasn’t much traffic, and the object wasn’t larger and more solid. Add in a little bit of luck.
For many drivers this Thanksgiving weekend, those factors might not all be available to save them and their families from a tragedy.
Between the Wednesday afternoon and Sunday evening of Thanksgiving weekend, there are statistically more vehicles on the road than almost any other time of the year.
Between 8 p.m. Wednesday and 3 a.m. Thanksgiving morning, the rate of car accidents will increase by about 17 percent.
The Wednesday before Thanksgiving is also a traditional party night for college kids coming home for the long weekend.
So there’s a greater potential for encountering drunken drivers on the road this weekend, particularly tonight.
People also tend to drink a little more than they should on Thanksgiving Day.
During the Thanksgiving Day period, 35% of fatalities involve an alcohol-impaired driver, compared to 29% the rest of the year.
The extra alcohol, combined with the sleep-inducing chemicals in a turkey dinner, the extra long hours on the road traveling to and from holiday destinations, the distractions of extra people in the car, and the increased number of vehicles on the road present greater opportunity for a deadly confrontation. Bad weather and more driving at night increase the danger..
The National Safety Council estimates that between 374 and 463 people will die in crashes during the long Thanksgiving weekend this year, and between 42,700 and 52,800 will be seriously injured.
Use this time to remind yourself to be extra safe if you’re traveling over the holiday. Be cognizant of how drowsy you are and take frequent breaks. Don’t overdue it on the alcohol, and be aware of other drunken drivers on the road. Buckle up and stay off the cell phone, be aware of the potential for heavy traffic, and adjust your speed and distance between vehicles accordingly.
Please be extra careful in all aspects of your driving this weekend.
And if the worst that happens is you hit a plastic garbage can, consider that another blessing for which to be thankful.