Cars in long row on highway in traffic jam

More than 368,000 will call on AAA for roadside assistance this Thanksgiving holiday season

By: John Townsend, Mid-Atlantic AAA

AAA recommends car care inspections before hitting the road

WASHINGTON, D. C. (Tuesday, November 19, 2019) –– Nearly 50 million Thanksgiving holiday travelers, including hundreds of thousands of people living in and around the national capital area, are making plans to hit the highways and byways during the upcoming holiday season. While going “over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house,” several hundreds of thousands of holiday travelers will run into car trouble along the way. In hopes of getting back on the road quickly, Thanksgiving travelers stranded and stalled on the side of the road will make SOS calls to the AAA Emergency Roadside Assistance nerve center. 

In fact, AAA is expecting to rescue 368,000 motorists nationwide during the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday period. Over the 2018 Thanksgiving holiday travel period, AAA’s Roadside Rescue Team came to the aid of approximately 45,546 stranded motorists across the mid-Atlantic area. That tally includes 8,082 motorists in misery in Maryland, 5,732 vexed vehicle owners in Virginia, and 958 distressed drivers in the District of Columbia.

Tens of millions – the majority of vehicles on U.S. roadways during the holiday are at a higher-than-average risk for a breakdown, warns AAA Automotive. Being stranded in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night is not for the faint of heart. Long trips coupled with cold weather places additional strain on vehicles and in some cases may accelerate a dormant issue.

“To avoid the heartbreak and headache of finding themselves stranded at the side of the road,  holiday travelers and motorists should have their vehicles checked out and tuned up before venturing out,” explained Bruce Jenkins, Manager, AAA Mid-Atlantic Emergency Roadside Assistance Fleet Depot for Springfield and Richmond. “That is sound advice, whether you are heading out on a holiday road trip of 50 miles or more away from home, or taking a quick jaunt around the corner, for that matter.”

All told, 49.3 million travelers will hit the road this Thanksgiving, the most since 2005 and 2.8% more than last year. This will be the second-highest Thanksgiving travel volume since AAA began tracking in 2000, trailing only the record set in 2005.

All vehicles – even the newest ones – are prone to typical roadside headaches like dead batteries, flat tires and misplaced keys, but vehicles 10 years and older are four times more likely to encounter a problem serious enough to require a tow to a repair facility. AAA offers these tips to drivers who experience trouble along the way:

  • Know your location: At the first sign of trouble, look around to determine the location. Look for mile markers or exit signs on highways, and street signs on surface streets.
  • Go right: move vehicle off roadway and as far to the right as possible
  • Alert other drivers: turn on vehicle flashers
  • Stay put: remain in the vehicle and call for help immediately. When help arrives do not exit the vehicle, wait for the first responder to approach the vehicle with instructions.

AAA recommends motorists use a simple checklist to determine their vehicle’s fall and winter maintenance needs. Many of the items on the list can be inspected by a car owner in less than an hour, but others should be performed by a certified technician.

“Not all breakdowns can be prevented, but routine vehicle maintenance is the best way to avoid being stranded along the side of the road,” said James Moore, Manager, AAA Mid-Atlantic Fairfax Car Care Center. “Keep in mind, oil changes, fluid level checks, battery tests and tire inspections go a long way toward reducing the chances of a breakdown.”

Vehicles 10 years and older are twice as likely to end up stranded on the side of the road compared to newer vehicles. On top of that, the odds of needing a tow to a repair facility quadruples. Those planning to travel should check weather and road conditions before leaving home.  Before you go:

  • Make certain your tires are properly inflated and have plenty of tread.
  • Keep at least half a tank of fuel in your vehicle at all times.
  • Check your battery today. The average car battery lasts 3-5 years.
  • Keep a bundle of cold-weather gear in your car, such as extra food and water, warm clothing, a flashlight, a glass scraper, blankets, medications, and more.

As a free service to drivers, AAA Mid-Atlantic Car Care Centers will check the strength of a vehicle’s battery. To find a AAA Car Care Center visit AAA.com/Locations.

Don’t be in the dark, read your owner’s manual. Vehicle owners should read the maintenance requirements set by the car’s manufacturer in the owner’s manual. There is no longer a “standard” maintenance schedule for vehicle services – including brake fluid. Each automaker has different requirements, making the owner’s manual the most accurate resource.

In-vehicle maintenance reminders provide good guidance because they account for real-time problems and how you actually drive. However, many reminder systems do not specifically cover maintenance operations that need to be performed on a time or mileage basis – such as brake fluid and coolant flushes or timing-belt replacement.

Again, AAA members can download the AAA Mobile app, visit AAA.com or call 1-800-AAA-HELP to request roadside assistance. What is more, AAA recommends motorists have their vehicles inspected by a trusted repair shop, such as one of AAA Mid-Atlantic’s Car Care Insurance Travel Centers or one of the more than 7,000 AAA Approved Auto Repair facilities across North America. For every bump along the road of life, there’s one place you can count on, and we’re beside you every step of the way.


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