The winter holiday season has arrived, and though it tends to come with much excitement, it’s also one of the most dangerous times of the year to be on the road.
During the holidays, the roads grow more congested and the number of drunk drivers increases dramatically this time of year. Inclement weather can also seemingly arise out of nowhere, worsening road conditions.
Car accidents and road fatalities peak around the American holidays due to “increased travel time, more alcohol use, and excessive driving speed,” according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
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While the holidays can certainly be joyous for many, they can also bring a surplus of stress and impatience — emotions that help fuel dangerous driving on American roads and highways.
The National Safety Council projections below show just how dangerous the roads can be around major American holidays.
|Estimated Number of Fatal Car Accidents in 2023
|Fourth of July
|New Year's Day
Even the most experienced and careful drivers should take extra precautions during the holiday season. Here are 8 potentially life-saving driving safety tips you can practice this time of year.
1. Designate a Driver
Because holiday celebrations often include alcohol, it’s no surprise that the number of drunk or impaired drivers increases during this time.
Just this month, a car accident near Boston was caused by a drunk driver and resulted in the hospitalization of an involved pedestrian. This is just one of the many stories of drunk driving having severe consequences.
In fact, drunk driving is responsible for roughly 30% of all fatal car accidents, according to the NHTSA — a trend that has remained steady for decades. In 2021, these crashes caused 13,384 deaths that could have been avoided.
Before heading out to any holiday gatherings, be sure to identify who in your party is going to be the one to drive home. Whoever drives, it’s imperative that they remain sober.
2. Get Your Car Serviced
Many people travel long distances over the holidays, and the last thing they want is for their car to break down along the way. Breakdowns can lead to traffic jams and more heavily congested roads — conditions that are ripe for auto accidents.
Stay one step ahead by checking your car’s oil, replacing windshield wipers, and rotating or updating tires. This can help give you some peace of mind that your car is ready to take on additional mileage during the holiday season.
Proactive and regular service on your vehicle is a simple and effective preventative measure that can end up saving your life and the lives of others.
3. Leave Early
Some drivers tend to rush between destinations during the holidays, and with roads at their most crowded, it’s never a bad idea to leave a little bit early to avoid potential traffic and minimize any need to rush.
On December 12, 2023, a serious truck accident near Worcester closed north- and south-bound lanes, causing serious delays and requiring medical helicopters to airlift those injured to the hospital.
Feeling rushed can lead to speeding and other reckless decisions. The less rushed drivers feel behind the wheel, the better — and safer — for all.
4. Keep Tabs on the Weather
Part of being prepared for the holidays is having a sense of what to expect weather-wise. The more prepared you are to take on harsher weather, the safer you are likely to be when those conditions arise.
The week heading into Christmas or New Year’s Eve, be sure to pay sharp attention to any major weather-related developments. Be prepared for snow, rain, and other serious weather conditions, and adjust your travel plans accordingly.
5. Put Together an Emergency Road Kit
Even if you pay close attention to the weather before your travel, conditions can change rapidly, and you should be prepared for almost anything.
This summer, motorists throughout Massachusetts were stranded due to flooded roads. In some areas, up to 2 inches of rain fell each hour, making it difficult for rescue crews to even reach stranded drivers.
By having an emergency kit stocked with blankets, cell phone chargers, flashlights, food, and water, you can have some peace of mind if anything unexpected should happen.
6. Stay Alert
Driving while tired can slow your reaction time and even cause you to fall asleep at the wheel.
About 1 in 25 drivers report having fallen asleep while driving, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sadly, drowsy driving caused 684 deaths in 2021, according to the NHTSA.
If you’re driving this holiday season, it may be a good idea to drink a cup of coffee or caffeinated tea before hitting the road home. This can make sure you are extra alert, sharp, and ready to drive.
7. Drive Defensively
Driving defensively is a classic rule when getting behind the wheel. Anything can happen — a deer can suddenly cross the road, black ice may create an unseeable hazard, and impaired or reckless drivers may swerve unexpectedly.
Earlier this month, a man entered the highway in the wrong direction, sadly resulting in a head-on car accident near Worcester that killed both drivers.
Some defensive driving tips include:
- Anticipating wide turns
- Being in control of your speed
- Not tailgating or following too closely
- Only passing if there’s enough space
- Pumping the brakes early instead of slamming on them
- Remaining alert and avoiding distractions
- Staying out of the blind spots of other drivers
By incorporating these tips, you may be able to avoid dangerous drivers that could put you at risk.
8. Dial Down the Distractions
Distracted driving is defined as any activity that takes the driver’s attention away from driving. Distracted driving claimed 3,522 lives in 2021, according to data from the NHTSA.
Dangerous driving distractions can include:
- Talking or texting on your phone
- Eating and drinking
- Turning to talk or interact with people in your vehicle
- Fiddling with the car stereo, entertainment, or navigation system
- Listening to loud music or other media
Above all, be sure to keep phones at a distance and resist the temptation to respond to messages. These habits can help avoid dangerous accidents — especially truck accidents, which account for 5,000 car accident fatalities every year.
The Importance of Driving Safe This Holiday Season
The winter holidays are truly a special time for so many Americans. The last thing families and loved ones want is a car crash, which can suddenly change the tenor of the entire holiday season.
In 2021, nearly 43,000 Americans died on the road. Since 2019, the number of fatal accidents has risen by over 17%.
Some states are safer than others, like Massachusetts, which has the fewest fatalities during holiday travel. Still, thousands of families are left devastated by car accidents and truck accidents.
Be sure you and your loved ones don’t become another statistic. Practice safe driving and take the few extra steps necessary to ensure your and others’ safety while on the road this holiday season.
If you do get in an accident that wasn't your fault, Sokolove Law is here to help. Call (800) 995-1212 now to learn more about your options for free.