AAA expects about one in seven Americans to travel this year for Thanksgiving. With so many cars on the road, it’s inevitable: Some of us will sit in snarled traffic. Some of us may even be delayed for hours.
How can you reduce your odds of sitting in traffic for hours this holiday? By timing your trip well.
First, a full disclosure: Even the best timing won’t guarantee smooth sailing. In fact, nothing can guarantee you won’t hit bad traffic at some point during your trip. Traffic conditions change every second and with no warning.
But smart timing can lower your odds of hitting one of those trip-stalling traffic jams, the kind that make you consider going back home and ordering a pizza. And most importantly, smoother trips are usually safer trips.
So, how do you do it? When is the best time to leave? When should you return home? How can you know for sure?
Data from Google’s traffic and mapping apps provides an excellent tool for analyzing traffic patterns. For several years now, Google’s Waze app has compiled traffic data. Studying this data helps analysts identify the times of lightest travel.
Here’s what the data shows: Drivers who leave home on the Monday before Thanksgiving have the best chances of making a seamless trip.
Of course, not everybody can leave home as early as Monday, especially when they have children in school. So what’s the second-best timing choice? The data says you should leave on Tuesday if you can’t leave on Monday.
If you can’t leave Tuesday, your next-best option may be early Thanksgiving morning. That’s true because leaving Wednesday makes you most vulnerable to bad traffic. The Wednesday before Thanksgiving is one of the busiest travel days of the entire year.
As for what time of day to leave, Google says waiting until 7 or 8 pm on Monday or Tuesday can pay off. By then, the ordinary traffic rush for the day should have subsided, lowering the odds for a quagmire.
For the trek back home after the holiday, drivers who leave early enjoy the lightest travel conditions. For example, leaving the Friday morning after Thanksgiving offers the best chance for a smooth trip. Saturday is the second best choice.
All of this data needs some perspective. This information provides a general overview for the entire nation, but it isn’t specific to your area. For example, this kind of data doesn’t reflect how local events, like college football games or outdoor festivals, affect travel times. It’s up to each driver to consider those factors.
It’s also up to each driver to stay calm no matter what happens with traffic conditions. Staying calm and maintaining perspective behind the wheel helps drivers make better decisions, and better decisions are key to staying safe.
At InfraStripe, we factor safety into every decision we make and every stripe we paint. We ask drivers behind the wheel to factor safety into every mile they drive this holiday season — whether they’re moving swiftly along the interstate or facing a sea of brake lights on the horizon.