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The holidays are a time for family traditions, home cooked meals, and storytelling.  Unfortunately, the holiday season is no stranger to vehicle accidents involving a distracted, impaired, or drowsy driver.  This Thanksgiving holiday will most likely be no different than Thanksgivings of the past.  Thousands of drivers, traveling to their festivities, are often in hurry.  Some drivers may speed, be distracted by a car load of family dysfunction and at dusk, when all of the meals have been consumed, drivers hit the road again, some buzzed on the high of good food and alcohol while others feel downright sleepy.  Statistically, Thanksgiving has been proven to be the deadliest holiday of the year on U.S. roads; according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2010, 431 people died in crashes on Thanksgiving.  Whether the accident occurred due to impaired, distracted, or drowsy driving, many Americans’ Thanksgiving was forever changed, all due to the carelessness of others.

 Does Thanksgiving Create Drowsy Drivers?

“Officer, the Turkey Made Me Drive this Way”

Whether or not turkey makes you sleepy has been a seemingly endless debate.  L-tryptophan, an amino acid found in turkey, has taken the blame over the years for making drivers sleepy on Thanksgiving.  Scientists suggest that while L-tryptophan can cause drowsiness, it is less likely the number one culprit (unless you only ate turkey for Thanksgiving and a lot of it).  The post-feast drowsiness, that makes people feel sleepy, a little intoxicated, and ready to change into sweat pants is a combination of many things, but mainly the meal itself.  Think of the mashed potatoes, the stuffing, pies, and other savory dishes that make an impressive spread on the Thanksgiving table; they are rich in carbohydrates and an overload of carbohydrates makes someone feel sluggish and sleepy.  And what really makes the meal, other than a large selection of delectable pies?  How about a nice glass of red wine, a frothy home brew, or some other spirit?  You’ve got a belly full of food, a couple drinks down, and the family may as well roll you out the door or let you sleep it off at the table.

If you are staying overnight, at the same place where dinner took place, continue to indulge and enjoy; you’re not going anywhere!  But many people, eager to get a start on “Black Friday” shopping or those who are required to go back to work the next day, will need to drive home.  Here are some tips to avoid drowsiness on the road:

–          Eat breakfast the morning of Thanksgiving.  If you save up all day just for the Thanksgiving Feast, you are more likely to over-indulge and as a result, feel really drowsy.

–          Drink water.  Don’t overdo it on caffeine and keep alcohol to a minimal.

–          Go for a post-dinner walk.  A walk may seem like the last thing on your mind after your Thanksgiving meal, especially if you are minutes away from a nap or swear that you can feel your button starting to pop off your pants.  A quick (or even slow) walk around the neighborhood can make you feel a lot better and you will most likely perk right up.

–          If you are driving home, it’s not a bad idea to take a short nap after dinner (and your walk) so that you feel more alert and well-rested.

–          Don’t be tempted by seconds.  You are finally feeling better.  You got some exercise, some fresh air, a tall glass of water, and a few winks of sleep; don’t be forced into eating another piece of pecan pie.  If Grandma insists you take extras home, put them way in the back of the car, out of reach.

–          If all fails and you either feel too tired, too full, or had too much to drink, hand the keys over to someone else.  You won’t magically wake up, feel more alert, or make safer decisions if you drive in the state you’re in.  Drowsy driving is just as dangerous as driving while under the influence of alcohol.  Combine both and you are a deadly combo.

Make Thanksgiving the Safest Holiday of the Year

Thanksgiving is the holiday of family, gratitude, reflection, and numerous traditions.  If every driver changed the way they drive this holiday season, like wearing a seat belt or slowing down just a couple of mph, this could and would be the safest holiday season of the year.  Before you blame the bird for your drowsy driving, take a look at your heaping plate of food and your glass of sparkling red.  Keep your family’s holiday traditions alive by staying alive.