The holidays should be filled with joy, cheer, and time spent with family and friends. However, statistics show that for many, the holidays aren’t always as jolly as planned; the rate of car accident tends to spike during the holiday season. If you’ll be driving this holiday season, our lawyers urge you to exercise caution while on the road, and keep an eye out for dangerous drivers. Here’s a look at what you need to know about holiday accidents and how to stay safe this season.
Car Accidents Increase During the Holidays
The rate of car accident during holiday weekends surges, making the upcoming Christmas and New Year’s holidays particularly worrisome. While these two holidays are the least deadly amongst holidays (Memorial Day weekend is the riskiest for drivers), the rate of traffic collision still increases, and from 2011 to 2015, there were 245 fatal accidents on New Years’ weekends alone.
Why Driving Is More Dangerous During the Holiday
There are multiple factors that explain the increase in traffic collisions on holiday weekends, including:
- More drivers on the road and more miles driven. The United States Department of Transportation explains that the Christmas/New Year’s holiday periods are some of the busiest periods for long-distance travel throughout the year. In fact, the number of long-distance trips increases by nearly 25 percent over the Christmas/New Year’s time period. The fact that there are more drivers on the road, that drivers are traveling longer distances, and that these trips are often occurring in areas that are unfamiliar for drivers all increase the risk of collision.
- Intoxicated driving. Statistics show that holiday driving may be especially precarious due to the number of intoxicated drivers on the road. To be sure, data published by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety shows that between 2010 and 2014, an average of 43.5 percent of drivers involved in crashes during the New Year’s holiday were alcohol-impaired. Over the Christmas holiday, the number of alcohol-impaired drivers involved in crashes fell to just over 35 percent, a number that is still far too high.
- Bad weather. Finally, holiday crashes may be contributed to, in part, by the fact that winter holidays are often accompanied by bad weather, including snow and ice. Snow and ice decrease visibility, and can make a vehicle harder to control.
Avoiding a Crash this Holiday Season
If you’ll be driving this holiday season, there are a few things that you can do to decrease your risk of being involved in a crash. These include:
- Road trip smartly. If you will be taking a long-distance trip this year, be sure that you’re prepared for the trip by planning your route in advance, scheduling rest to avoid fatigue, and switching drivers throughout the trip. If you can, avoid driving in bad weather or when it’s dark out. Also, as you are planning your trip, bring your car in for servicing and get everything checked over to make sure it is in good repair. If you are just about due for an oil change, get that done before you leave. Make sure they top off all the fluids and inflate the tires to their proper pressure levels. Have your brakes inspected to make sure there is plenty of wear left on the pads, and have your battery checked to ensure that there is plenty of charge. If your mechanic recommends any new parts or repairs, take care of these issues prior to your trip.
- Never drink and drive. One of the most dangerous things that you can do is to get behind the wheel of a car after consuming an alcoholic beverage. Never drink and drive – if you consume alcohol at a holiday party, make sure you have a designated (sober) driver planned in advance, or call a ride.
- Get road rage under control. More drivers on the road and potentially bad weather can mean more accidents and more traffic, which can be frustrating. However, road rage and aggressive driving only increase the risk of being involved in a crash, so if you’re prone to anger when behind the wheel, develop some coping strategies that can help you to stay calm. Remember, the goal is to get to your destination safely.
- Pack an Emergency Roadside Kit. If you end up getting stranded, having an emergency winter kit could be a lifesaver. In your kit, you should include:
- Flashlights with fresh batteries
- A portable cell phone charger (in case your battery dies)
- Stocking caps, gloves, warm blankets, and hand warmers
- Reflective triangles and warning flares
- Nonperishable snacks and drinking water
- A first-aid kit
- Jumper cables
- A small shovel (in case you get stuck in snow)
Keep your Roadside Assistance Phone Number Handy
Everyone should have some type of emergency roadside assistance. Most auto insurers offer this within their policies for a few dollars per month, or you can obtain more comprehensive coverage from an outside service such as AAA for less than $100 a year. Be sure you have some kind of roadside assistance service, and keep their phone number in a place that is easy to access if you get stuck on the road.
Wishing You a Safe and Happy Holiday Season
At the law offices of Olmstead & Olmstead, P.C., our dedicated personal injury lawyers are wishing you a safe, happy, and accident-free holiday season. If you are involved in a crash, please don’t hesitate to visit our office in person, send us an email requesting information, or call us directly at 703-361-1555 for answers to questions about what to do next.