Driving Lessons from Chevy Chase in Christmas Vacation



Every Christmas Eve, after church and dinner, you will find our family in our living room with the Christmas tree on, and the lights turned down, ready to watch Christmas Vacation.  We have seen the movie so many times we can quote most of it, and it is a treasured tradition.  One of the funniest scenes is when the Griswolds drive out to the country to get a Christmas tree the old-fashioned way: cutting it down themselves.   Let’s look at all the driving tips that can be derived from this one particular scene:  

  • TIP #1 : The whole family (Clark aka Sparky, Ellen, Bud and Audrey) are in the car. Did you know that your risk of becoming distracted and having an accident increases with each additional person in the car?  Now, we are not suggesting you only drive solo but it is a fact to be mindful of especially with teen or less-experienced drivers.
  • TIP #2: In the movie, the problem starts when the truck begins following too closely or tailgating the Griswold station wagon.  In Tennessee, tailgating is prohibited by statute and for good reason.  Tailgating does not allow enough of an assured-clear-distance to avoid an accident in certain circumstances.  Not only that, tailgating is form of aggressive driving which can lead to more aggressive driving, which can lead to accidents.
  • TIP #3: While Clark and Ellen are buckled up, poor Audrey and Bud are not.  When Clark slams on the brakes, they go flying forward.  When he punches the gas to pass, they go flying back into their seats.  Funny?  Maybe.  Safe?  Definitely not.  And, Tennessee law requires everyone to be buckled up.
  • TIP #4: When the truck’s tailgating starts to bother Clark, Ellen wisely tells him to slow down and let him pass.  This is great advice. When faced with a bothersome or inappropriate driver, distance yourself from them if at all possible.
  • TIP #5: While the driver of the truck starts the battle, Clark immediately escalates the problems by flipping-off the occupants of the truck and yelling at them.  Don’t do this.  Rude and offensive gestures are a form of aggressive driving.
  • TIP #6 In response to being flipped off, the truck then “brake checks” the Griswolds by stopping quickly for no reason. Again, another form of aggressive driving.
  • TIP #7 Clark has become so distracted by the truck, arguing with Ellen and the aggressive driving, he is completely unaware of the large semi-truck in his vicinity.  Defensive driving experts recommend checking your mirrors every 5 seconds.
  • TIP #8: Clark also fails to signal or check his mirrors before changing lanes. As a result, he gets stuck under the semi-truck.
  • TIP #9 While this tip is not part of this particular scene, I could not resist given this sign currently over Interstate 65.  Stay off your phone while driving.


The holidays can be stressful.  Traffic and road conditions can be bad, but as Ellen says: “I don’t want to spend the holidays dead!” and neither do you.  Drive safe this holiday season.  And if you have not ever seen Christmas Vacation, you need to add it to your festivities this year.  Like the jelly of the month club, it is the gift that keeps on giving to the Day family.   We wish everyone a safe and happy holiday!

And, of course, if you need us, our award-winning attorneys will be here to help.  Call us at any of the numbers below:

Brentwood: 615-742-4880

Nashville: 615-669-3993

Murfreesboro: 615-867-9900

Toll-free: 866-812-8787

Contact Information