Dr. Traffic

Make your 4-wheeler a vessel for holiday cheer

Children watch the Christmas lights through the sunroof of a car while touring McAdenville, also known asChristmas Town USA.
Children watch the Christmas lights through the sunroof of a car while touring McAdenville, also known asChristmas Town USA. dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com

If you’re reading this, you’ve arrived at the back end of the busiest car-travel season of the year. Yes, Thanksgiving is behind us and, for better or worse, it’s now officially the Christmas season.

“Official” happens the day after Thanksgiving, in my book. Whether you plan to celebrate or not, ignoring the season of giving is pretty much impossible, even when you’re driving.

Oh yes, being in your car is a big part of making merry.

Well, we’re told it’s good to be prepared, no matter the situation. So here are a few tips for drivers who want to stay on top of things as the holiday season commences:

▪ Wreaths and reindeer antlers for the front of the car are optional. Cleaning the vehicle is not. Pet hair is not an accessory anyone wants to add to sparkly or all-black special occasion attire. Get rid of it, along with any blankets or towels that you use to protect the seats from hairballs. Those are just gross.

▪ Remove anything from your vehicle that would embarrass you. There’s a chance you’ll be lugging around people or suitcases or groceries before corks fly on New Year’s Day. Clear out the smelly gym shoes, plungers and bulk containers of denture cream before you have to pop the trunk open.

▪ Prepare for that day when someone wrangles you into taking a trip to McAdenville, aka Christmas Town USA, to see the holiday light show. That’s more than 500,000 red, green and white bulbs that will twinkle from 6 p.m. Tuesday through Dec. 26. Fill up if you agree to drive. You don’t want to have to leave the long lines and come back. That’s a rookie move.

▪ Don’t think you’re going to “just run inside quickly” at a popular restaurant, market or other public places on a weekend as it gets closer to the big day. Parking lots will be jammed. And why burn up fuel circling the lot for a spot close to the entrance? Instead, bring a hat and scarf and wear comfortable shoes. Drop off your guests at the door and cruise to the distant reaches of the land. Try to make new friends on the hike back to your destination.

▪ Finally – and this one is dear to me – remember that on the highway each of the lanes serves a purpose. Move to the right lane as you get closer to your exit. Hang out in the middle if you’re in it for a long haul.

And now … about that left lane. It’s for passing slower-moving cars. If you notice someone approaching you from behind at a speed that’s faster than yours, be courteous and move at least one lane to the right – even if you’re driving at the speed limit.

If your exit is coming up on the left, that’s still no reason to creep along doing 40 in the passing lane for 5 miles.

I’m not bitter. I’m just trying to help. I don’t want to see the revenge tailgaters get in trouble with Santa again this year.

Karen Sullivan: drtraffic@charlotteobserver.com, @Sullivan_kms