While the winter holidays should be a joyous time, the sharp rise in traffic fatalities during those few weeks brings tragedy to thousands. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than a thousand fatal accidents and thousands more non-fatal accidents will take place in the short span between Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. Keep yourself and your loved ones safe this holiday season.
Drinking. The National Safety Council study found that alcohol-related impairment was a factor in up to 48% of holiday traffic fatalities.
Density. Shopping, visiting, social events, and errands mean that more people are on the road during the holidays. The higher the traffic density, the great the opportunity for accidents.
Aggressive driving. Speeding, abrupt lane changes, tailgating, and poorly executed passing rise in reaction to tight schedules, heavy traffic, and holiday stress.
Darkness. Shorter amounts of daylight during the winter means a lot of holiday driving may be done before sunrise and after sunset, which are prime times for serious accidents. In addition, bodies that are still adjusting to the ending of daylight savings time can be particularly vulnerable to fatigue and slower reflexes, factors that can lead to accidents.
Drowsiness. Long travel times, social obligations, working late, watching holiday programs, eating heavy meals, consuming alcohol, and other activities can leave you and other drivers fatigued. That’s a real danger, as the National Sleep Foundation found that people who are awake for more than 20 hours have an impairment level equivalent to a person with a blood alcohol level of .08 – the legal cut-off limit for driving.
Weather. Snow, ice, and other weather-related events contribute to thousands of accidents during the winter holidays when treacherous conditions take their toll.
Use these tips to further reduce your chance of being in a fatal accident during the holidays.
Appoint a designated driver if you plan to consume alcohol. Don’t leave it to chance that a member of your party will be able to drive. If anyone tells you they are concerned about your driving, please allow them to drive you home or to a motel if staying the night is not an option.
Always wear a seatbelt. Only 13% of drivers and passengers don’t regularly use seatbelts, but they account for a whopping 44.7% of vehicular accident fatalities.
Maintain a prudent distance from the vehicle ahead of you. Remember, you’ll often be sharing the road with drivers who are impaired by alcohol or fatigue and/or who may be distracted by a vehicle full of passengers. They may abruptly change lanes, slow down or even hit the brakes with little warning. This advice goes double when you’re driving on wet, icy, or snowy roads where vehicles take longer to stop.
Resolve to be non-reactive on the road. A survey found that drivers in various age groups reported that they are much more likely to drive aggressively during winter holidays. Being late, traffic jams, and road construction or closures are the biggest triggers.
Remember: the best gift you can give your loved ones is your safety.
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