Holiday Driving Safety Tips

Posted on November 6, 2023 in Personal Injury

The holiday season is a time of joy, celebration, and coming together with loved ones. For many, this also means hitting the road to reach destinations near and far. However, the combination of increased traffic, winter weather conditions, and festive revelry can contribute to numerous hazards on the road.

Holiday Traffic Accident Statistics

Holiday Driving Safety Tips

Here are some eye-opening statistics that illustrate just how dangerous it is to get behind the wheel during the holiday season:

  • Many Americans drive cars for holiday trips, the mode of transport with the highest fatality rate per passenger mile.
  • Alcohol-fueled celebrations during holidays increase the risk of fatal wrecks.
  • In 2020, there were 496 traffic deaths during the Thanksgiving holiday.
  • During the 2020 Thanksgiving period, 36 percent of fatal traffic accidents involved an alcohol-impaired driver.
  • In 2020, there were 312 traffic deaths during the Christmas holiday.
  • During the 2020 Christmas holiday period, 39 percent of fatal traffic accidents involved an alcohol-impaired driver.
  • In 2020, there were 138 traffic deaths during the New Year’s holiday.
  • During the 2020 New Year’s period, 49 percent of fatal traffic accidents involved an alcohol-impaired driver.
  • Annually, 24 percent of weather-related vehicle crashes occur on snowy, slushy, or icy pavement.
  • Fifteen percent of these crashes happen during snowfall or sleet.
  • More than 1,300 individuals die, and more than 116,800 get hurt in crashes on snowy, slushy, or icy pavement annually.
  • Nearly 900 people die, and about 76,000 get hurt in traffic accidents during snowfall or sleet yearly.

How to Stay Safe on the Road This Holiday Season

Safety should always be a top priority. As drivers, we all have a role in ensuring our journeys are as safe as possible. Below are valuable tips to keep you and your loved ones safe while driving this holiday season.

Plan Your Route in Advance.

Before embarking on your holiday journey, it’s important to plan your route thoroughly.

A well-thought-out route can help you avoid unexpected road closures, construction zones, and potentially hazardous areas. Additionally, with the rise of modern technology, various map applications and GPS devices offer real-time traffic updates and alternate routes.

Planning in advance saves you time and reduces the stress of last-minute decisions on the road. Moreover, informing someone close to you about your planned route and expected arrival time can provide an added safety measure, ensuring someone knows your whereabouts throughout the journey.

Check the Weather Forecast.

Mother Nature is often unpredictable, especially during the winter holiday season. From snowstorms to heavy rain, holiday weather can significantly affect road conditions.

By checking the weather forecast before you set off, you better prepare to handle inclement conditions. Doing so can also help you decide the best time to leave, whether you need to take alternative routes, or even if you should delay your trip for safety reasons.

Driving in unfavorable weather not only poses a risk to you but also to others on the road. Staying informed and ready is your first line of defense against the elements.

Get a Tune-up Before You Go.

Before setting out on a long drive, ensure your vehicle is in optimal condition by scheduling a thorough tune-up. Have your mechanic check essential components like brakes, tires, lights, and batteries. Ensure fluids, such as oil and coolant, are at appropriate levels.

A well-maintained vehicle is less likely to break down and leave you stranded in potentially unfamiliar or unsafe areas. Besides, the peace of mind knowing your vehicle is in top shape allows you to focus solely on driving.

Avoid Peak Travel Times.

Holidays often mean congested roads and highways, as many people are traveling at the same time.

Set out at non-peak hours to reduce the stress of heavy traffic and potential delays. Early mornings or late evenings often offer smoother transits. Furthermore, driving during off-peak times reduces the risk of accidents due to decreased road congestion.

Remember, patience can run thin in bumper-to-bumper traffic, so avoiding these situations can create a more pleasant and safer driving experience.

Never Drive Under the Influence.

One of the most fundamental driving rules is also especially important during the holiday season. Many people get into the spirit by involving alcohol in their celebrations, which is perfectly fine as long as they avoid getting behind the wheel.

Driving under the influence jeopardizes your safety and the safety of passengers, other drivers, and pedestrians around you.

Even if you believe you consumed a minimal amount, err on the side of caution. Opt for alternative transportation, designate a sober driver, or stay overnight if necessary. The risks of impaired driving are too great, and no celebration is worth endangering lives.

Pack an Emergency Kit.

Unexpected situations can arise anywhere on the road, especially during lengthy holiday travels. Having an emergency kit is often a lifesaver in unforeseen circumstances.

Your kit should include essentials such as a flashlight with extra batteries, a first-aid kit, non-perishable snacks, bottled water, a multipurpose tool, and essential car repair items like jumper cables and tire sealant.

In colder climates, also consider packing a blanket, gloves, and a snow shovel. Being prepared gives you peace of mind and can mean the difference between a minor inconvenience and a potentially dangerous situation.

Keep Your Phone Charged.

Avoiding using your phone while driving is essential, but it remains a necessary tool for emergencies or navigating unfamiliar routes. Before you begin your journey, be sure to charge your phone fully.

Bringing along a car charger or a portable power bank means you’ll always have a way to power your device. In case of breakdowns, accidents, or simply needing to inform someone of your whereabouts, a charged phone is indispensable. It’s your lifeline to the outside world and could be instrumental in summoning help.

Limit Distractions.

Distractions are a leading cause of accidents. While driving, focusing solely on the task at hand is vital. This means refraining from texting, scrolling through social media, or fiddling with the radio.

If you’re traveling with passengers, ask them to manage tasks such as adjusting climate controls or navigating for you. Remember, it only takes a momentary lapse in concentration to result in a potentially severe accident. By minimizing distractions, you prioritize your safety, your passengers’ safety, and the safety of other road users.

Adjust Your Speed for Road Conditions.

While posted speed limits indicate the maximum allowable speed under optimal conditions, various factors might require you to drive slower. Rain, snow, fog, or heavy traffic can significantly affect the road’s condition.

In such scenarios, reduce your speed to ensure adequate control over your vehicle. Wet or icy roads can double or even triple the distance you need to stop. Adjusting your speed according to the conditions increases your reaction time and decreases the risk of accidents.

Keep a Safe Following Distance.

Tailgating is not just inconsiderate. It’s dangerous. Maintain a safe distance between your vehicle and the one in front, and allow ample time to react if the leading vehicle stops suddenly.

Generally, for every ten miles per hour of speed, keep at least one car length between you and the car in front. For instance, if you’re driving at 60 miles per hour, maintain a following distance of at least six car lengths. Consider increasing this distance even further in adverse weather conditions to compensate for reduced visibility and longer stopping distances.

Use Headlights in Bad Weather, Even During the Day.

Visibility is paramount for safe driving. During inclement weather, even the bright light of day often becomes dull, reducing everyone’s visibility on the road.

Using headlights, even in the daytime, can markedly increase your vehicle’s visibility to others. It aids other drivers in recognizing your presence from a distance, giving them more time to react accordingly. Furthermore, using headlights in poor weather conditions is a legal requirement in many jurisdictions.

Be Cautious in Areas With Holiday Events or Parades.

Many localities celebrate the holidays with parades and other public events, often attracting pedestrians and unexpected traffic patterns. Usually quiet streets might suddenly bustle with activity, or traditionally busy roads could have unexpected closures.

Driving through areas hosting public holiday events requires heightened awareness.

Always anticipate unexpected movements from excited children or distracted adults. Paying attention to traffic marshals, following temporary signs, and practicing patience can make navigating through such areas smoother and safer. If possible, researching and choosing alternate routes in advance is wise.

Avoid Fatigued Driving. Take Breaks or Share the Wheel.

We cannot overstate the importance of being mentally alert when driving. Fatigue can drastically reduce reaction times, impair judgment, and decrease attentiveness. And especially during long holiday drives, it’s easy to underestimate the onset of drowsiness.

Get plenty of rest before getting behind the wheel. If you find your concentration waning or your eyelids drooping, pull over. Regularly scheduled breaks during long trips can help. And if you’re traveling with another capable driver, sharing the driving responsibilities can make the journey less tiring and more manageable for both.

Know How to Handle a Skid.

The unpredictability of road conditions, especially during winter, means that skidding is a real possibility on holiday drives. If your vehicle starts to skid, your initial reaction might be panic. But implementing the correct response could save your life if you begin to skid.

You can do so by steering in the direction you wish to go and resisting the urge to brake suddenly. Different vehicles can respond differently to this type of maneuver, so it’s beneficial to familiarize yourself with how your car handles.

If possible, practice skid recovery in a safe, controlled environment to instill confidence and improve reaction time during actual events.

Keep Your Gas Tank at Least Half Full.

It might seem minor, but maintaining a half-full gas tank, especially in colder regions, has multiple benefits. A fuller tank reduces the risk of condensation, which, in freezing temperatures, can cause fuel line freezing.

Moreover, unexpected situations such as traffic jams, detours, or getting lost can mean extended driving time. In these situations, you need ample fuel. Finally, in emergencies where you get stranded, having plenty of gas allows you to keep the engine running, maintain warmth, and charge your devices.

Carry Chains or Snow Tires in Winter Weather Areas.

The unpredictability of winter weather can quickly turn a smooth road into a slippery challenge.

In regions with frequent snow and ice, you may need snow chains or snow tires. They provide the necessary traction to navigate snowy or icy terrain safely. Before embarking on your journey, familiarize yourself with the correct installation of snow chains or ensure your vehicle gets fitted with appropriate snow tires. Keep an eye on your tire pressure monitors to ensure optimal performance.

Preparation is key to ensuring a safe winter drive.

How a Lawyer Can Help After a Holiday Traffic Accident

Getting hurt in a holiday driving accident is often physically, emotionally, and logistically overwhelming. In the midst of recovering and managing the shock, dealing with the legal aspects of your situation might seem like an impossible challenge. This is where a competent lawyer steps in.

The Phoenix personal injury lawyer can help you by:

  • Investigating the accident to identify liable parties and gather essential evidence
  • Communicating with other drivers, insurance companies, and opposing counsel on your behalf
  • Assessing the full extent of your losses, including current and future medical costs, lost income, and pain and suffering
  • Hiring expert witnesses, if necessary, to testify on your behalf
  • Analyzing traffic and accident reports to pinpoint negligence or wrongdoing
  • Evaluating possible contributing factors like bad weather, vehicle malfunctions, intoxication, or poor road conditions
  • Reviewing your insurance policy to identify coverage and benefits limits
  • Negotiating a fair settlement with the insurance companies
  • Fighting any attempts by insurers to undervalue or deny your claim
  • Representing you in court if a lawsuit becomes necessary
  • Drafting and filing all necessary legal documents pertinent to your case
  • Preparing you for testimony, depositions, and any court appearances
  • Advocating for your rights and interests throughout the entire legal process