As the number of travelers increases, so do air and ground travel risks. If you plan to travel this holiday season, here’s what you need to know.

Don’t Let Travel Dangers Derail Your Holidays

2023 is shaping up to be a record year for winter holiday travel, according to the American Automobile Association (AAA).

AAA predicts that 115.2 million holiday travelers will take flights or road trips during the Christmas and New Year’s holidays in 2023. That’s an increase of 2.2 percent over last year or about 2.5 million additional travelers. 

As the number of travelers increases, so do air and ground travel risks. If you plan to travel this holiday season, here’s what you need to know. 

2023: A Busy Travel Year

2023 is forecast to be the busiest holiday travel year of the 2020s. It’s also predicted to be the second-busiest travel year since AAA started tracking holiday travel data in 2000, coming close to 2019’s record of 119 million total travelers.

AAA’s projections are based on past travel data and travel data from other peak holiday periods, including Independence Day and Thanksgiving. AAA’s 2023 data for these two holidays showed record numbers of travelers – leading AAA to believe that the winter holidays will continue the pattern. 

AAA predicts that:

  • 7.51 million people will travel by air – more than the current record of 7.33 million in 2019.
  • 103.6 million people will drive more than 50 miles, an increase of 1.8 percent from last year but a slight decrease from the 2019 record of 108 million.
  • 4.05 million people will take buses, trains, or cruise ships, beating 2019’s record of 3.89 million. 

As Holiday Traffic Increases, So Do Travel Risks

Lots of holiday traffic means lots of people seeking to get to their destination. It also means more opportunities for a crash or other injury to occur. 

Transportation data provider INRIX estimates that Saturday, December 23, and Thursday, December 28, are likely the worst traffic days on U.S. roads during the winter holidays. INRIX warns that 11 am to 7 pm are likely to be the worst times of day for travel on the 23rd. On the 28th, INRIX projects traffic will be worst between 2 pm and 8 pm local time. Major metro transit systems could experience double their usual delays. 

Risks holiday travelers could face include:

  • More vehicle and pedestrian accidents. As an August 2021 case from downtown Charleston demonstrates, drivers in busy areas can easily hit pedestrians, causing permanent injuries. 
  • Crashes between vehicles on busy highways. Holiday travelers will join commuters, truck traffic, and others already present on highways and surface streets during the holiday season – increasing the risk of a crash
  • Inclement weather. Rain, snow, ice, sleet, and fog can lower visibility, make road surfaces slippery, and increase the risks for drivers – including the risk of being unable to stop in time to prevent a crash. 
  • Accidents at airports, bus terminals, and other stops. Collisions with vehicles, slip-and-fall accidents, and other injury-causing events can occur at busy airports, bus terminals, and other public transportation stops. 

Everyone traveling this holiday season can help reduce the risk of accidents and injuries. Planning ahead, using caution, and staying alert can all help you reduce the risk of serious injuries. 

Keep Yourself Safe: Tips for Holiday Travelers

To reduce your risk of causing or suffering serious injuries during the 2023 holiday season, keep these tips in mind: 

Plan your trip around peak travel times. Look up peak travel times in your area, and plan your travel so you’re not trying to navigate to your destination at these times. If you must travel during peak traffic times, leave plenty of time to reach your destination. The pressure to rush can increase the risk of an accident. 

Prepare your travel kit with essential safety needs. If you’re driving, have your vehicle inspected before you leave. Pack a car safety kit with flashlights, spare batteries, a phone charger, food and water, spare clothing, a first aid kit, and a shovel if you’re heading into snowy conditions. If you’re traveling by air, pack your essentials in your carry-on, and consider carrying a spare battery pack so you’re never stuck with a dead phone. 

Avoid substances that impair your attention and judgment. Never drink or use drugs before driving or while on the road. Avoid prescription and over-the-counter medications that may make you drowsy or affect your judgment as well. While navigating busy areas, avoid distractions so you can focus on staying safe. 
If you’re injured, seek help. Get medical attention right away if injuries occur. Also, consider speaking to an experienced personal injury lawyer. An attorney can help you understand your legal rights and seek compensation if needed.

Updated on December 22, 2023

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