Are you hitting the road this Thanksgiving? Less busy roads in 2020 led to aggressive driving and more accidents, a trend that hasn’t slowed. So before you buckle up, check out these tips from the pros. Here are three easy ways to avoid traffic this holiday season, and get to where you’re going safely.
To avoid traffic, leave later.
While the pandemic cut the number of cars on the road, we still spend up to 56 hours a year stuck in traffic, and that number is creeping back up. What to do? “In many cases, you can leave later and still arrive at the same time, due to the change in traffic,” says William Van Tassel, Ph.D., of AAA. “Just 30 minutes can make a huge difference.” And with flextime becoming more possible at many companies, asking your employer if you can shift your start and end times a little in either direction can have a big impact. Another smart tip? Waze recently implemented the “planned drives” feature, which syncs the app to your phone’s calendar and notifies you when to leave based on traffic patterns.
To stay alert, listen to this kind of music.
When picking your playlist, tempo and volume matter more than the type of tunes you choose. According to a study in which drivers listened to slow, medium, or fast-paced music while driving long distances, medium tempo — i.e., classic rock, country — at a medium volume was best at boosting focus. Slow-tempo tunes caused drivers to tire, and fast-paced music increased speeding. Love audiobooks and podcasts? Save them for well-known routes or long stretches of highway, says Lisa Dorn, Associate Professor of Driver Behavior at Cranfield University in England. They’re better than music at boosting attention because listening to speech increases activity in the part of the brain that responds to external stimuli. But with a new route, following words may be too distracting.
To outsmart jams and avoid traffic, zipper up.
It feels counterintuitive (even rude), but when two lanes are coming together, it’s safest and speediest to drive as far ahead as possible before merging, then alternate with other motorists like a zipper into the open lane, says Tom Vanderbilt, author of Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us) (Buy on Amazon, $15). This reduces the line of traffic that builds up in both lanes by 50 percent. When other people need to come into your lane, leave two car spaces in front of you and let cars merge in. A recent study found that just one driver doing this can significantly alleviate backups. That’s because it allows more cars — including yours! — to continue moving forward without braking, keeping traffic flowing.
To see the road ahead, do these three things.
To cut condensation and banish window fog, turn the A/C to the coldest setting, switch vents to the defogger, and close the windows. “This works even when it’s cold out,” says Van Tassel. “Also, keep windows clean — dirty ones fog up easily.”
To outsmart sun glare, look for sunglasses with brown or amber lenses. According to researchers at the Cleveland Clinic, these hues are best at creating a contrast while driving, blocking glare and ensuring you see the road clearly.
The beams from oncoming headlights make nighttime driving tough. “Just keep looking at the road, and turn your gaze slightly up and to the right,” says optometrist Pamela Miller. Headlights aim down and either straight or a bit to the right, and if you’re not looking straight at them, the lights won’t impact your vision.
A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, First For Women.