Holiday Driving: Safety Tips from a Champion Racer

What a Race Team Can Teach All Motorists
About Safe Driving and Proper Maintenance

MELBOURNE, FLA. — They have a rule at Larsen Motorsports.

When Elaine Larsen, the company’s co-founder and world champion driver, is in her car, and her car is moving, there is to be no external communications with her.

With the Florida Institute of Technology jet dragster Larsen drives, “moving” means 280 mph, or about 400 feet per second, at top speed. But the same sensibility should apply to anyone who drives – even if the vehicle does not have a jet turbine attached to it, according to Elaine and her husband, Larsen Motorsports co-founder and head crew chief Chris Larsen.

As nearly 46 million motorists hit the road for Thanksgiving holiday travel this year – an increase of more than 3 percent over last year’s volume, according to AAA – and many more Americans prepare to take trips to the local mall, holiday gift list in hand, the Larsens are offering safe and sensible driving and maintenance tips honed on the racetrack but helpful no matter where – or what – you drive.

“It’s all about common-sense driving techniques, awareness and proper maintenance,” Elaine Larsen said.

  • Do not be a distracted driver. For Elaine in her jet dragster, that means no talking into her headset; for the rest of us that means no texting and driving, and being mindful of other distractions like a blaring radio or friends or pets who have come along for the ride.
  • Focus on where you are going. Whether that means checking traffic conditions before you leave, understanding road closures or construction, or even scouting your route in advance, familiarity with what’s outside your windshield contributes to safe, less distracted driving. “I walk or drive the track before every race,” Elaine said.
  • Keep your windshield clean and clear, and keep an eye on what’s happening down the street. All of that can help reaction time, if something unexpected happens.
  • Keep the inside of your car clutter-free. Ever tried to put the brakes on with an empty soda cup stuck beneath the pedal? Be sure to have your proper insurance and registration paperwork within easy reach.
  • Before leaving, walk around your car to conduct a visual inspection. Tires properly inflated? Any loose parts hanging down? Headlight and tail light assemblies intact? You could even consider checking the terminals on your battery for corrosion.

This is more than just an academic exercise: Flat tires and battery-related issues will be among the primary causes of the expected 330,000 motorists that AAA expects to rescue over the Thanksgiving holiday, the agency said.

“Heading into the holiday season, we will almost certainly encounter drivers who are distracted as they deal with squirming kids, sing Christmas songs along with the radio or are looking for a place to park – or maybe all three,” Chris Larsen said. “As a gift to yourself and your family, don’t become one of these drivers.”


EDITORS/PRODUCERS: Elaine and Chris Larsen are available for in-person interviews or via phone or Skype. Please contact Adam Lowenstein at 321-674-8964 for scheduling and additional information.

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