Before you grab the keys and head out the door this holiday season, it’s good to know what you’re up against. The “most wonderful time of the year” can also be the most perilous time on the roads. Here’s why:
Driving Under the Influence.
According to Drug Abuse.com, nearly 30% of people say that they drink more during the holidays. This is largely due to holiday parties where liquor flows freely, but people also turn to alcohol and drugs to deal with the emotions and stresses associated with the holidays.
Approximately 25% of people experience an increase in depression during the holidays, and more than 60% say they feel at least moderately anxious in the holiday season. Unfortunately, some of these people may “medicate” their feelings and take to the roads.
As holiday stress mounts, people may be thinking less about driving safely and more about their unfinished Christmas shopping or what they’re serving for Christmas dinner. And given how busy the holidays are, people may also be over-focused on getting from point A to point B in a hurry. This may cause them to run traffic lights, tailgate, drive too fast, or fail to yield to others.
We dream of a white Christmas, but when snow or ice underlay holiday traffic, you could end up with the “perfect storm” of traffic accident risks.
Most of us sleep less in the lead up to the holidays as we try to orchestrate holiday cards, presents, parties, and more. Tired drivers can be as dangerous as impaired drivers. In fact, a AAA study released in 2016 showed that missing two to three hours of sleep can quadruple your risk for a traffic accident.
Steps to Stay Safe
Now that you understand the challenges of holiday driving, let’s talk about how to stay safe on the roads. Unfortunately, you can’t control other drivers, but you can do your best to drive defensively and minimize your risks.
1. Buckle up.
Wear your seat belt and make sure that all of your passengers do the same. According to the CDC, when drivers and front-seat passengers buckle up, they cut their risk for traffic fatalities by 45% and serious injuries by 50%.
2. Maintain your car.
Knowing how busy the holidays can be, make a habit of doing regular auto maintenance in advance. This includes getting your oil changed, brakes checked, and tires rotated. And if you need new tires (because your tread is low or the weather merits snow tires), get that taken care of early, too.
3. Prepare before you put it in drive.
You can’t focus on the road when you’re still defrosting your window, fumbling with the radio, or mapping your route to your destination. This should all be taken care of before you ever pull out of your garage or parking space.
4. Don’t drive tired.
If you feel yourself getting drowsy on your trip, pull over to a safe place and take a short cat nap. You’ll endanger yourself and others if you’re half asleep on the road.
5. Eliminate distractions.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, distracted driving has risen to become one of the leading causes of automobile crashes, and cell phone use accounts for most distracted driving.
The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute said that dialing a cell phone makes your crash risk (or near-crash risk) 2.8 times higher than driving distraction-free. It’s a triple whammy because it monopolizes your hands, eyes, and brain.
In Utah, you cannot hold or manipulate a phone in any way while you are driving. It is a “hands-free” state, meaning you cannot use your hands to access texts, instant messages, or the internet. Additionally, you cannot type anything into your phone or record a video while driving.
Repeat offenses will get you a Class B misdemeanor, which could come with a fine of up to $1,000 and up to a six month jail term. If you get in an accident while texting and kill someone, you will be charged with vehicular homicide, which is a felony in Utah. This carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison and $10,000 in fines.
6. Go the speed limit.
No matter how much of a rush you’re in to get to the limited supply of half-priced gizmos at the store for stocking stuffers, it’s never worth speeding. Nearly one-third of fatal car crashes involve speeding. What’s more, studies have shown that a 5 mph increase in speed is associated with an 8% increase in fatality rates on interstates and freeways.
Not only should you go the speed limit during the holidays, if weather is poor, you should go beneath the speed limit. For wet weather, reduce speed by 30%. For snow, reduce speed by 50%.
7. Don’t tailgate.
If you’re going 55 mph, your car will need 6 seconds and the length of a football field to stop. If you’re hugging someone’s bumper, you’re inviting a collision.
8. Leave early.
You should expect that traffic will be worse during the holidays–whether you’re running errands on local streets or hitting the highway for a holiday road trip. It’s never good to leave in the nick of time with no cushion for traffic, but this is an especially poor idea around the holidays.
9. Don’t drive under the influence.
With so many rideshare options, there’s no reason for you to get behind the wheel when you’re intoxicated. If you don’t have a friend who can serve as a designated driver, arrange for a rideshare in advance.
Your judgment, coordination, focus, and reaction time can all be impaired with a BAC as low as .01 percent. In Utah, your first DUI could lead to a prison term (from two days up to as much as 180 days), a four-month license suspension, and fines topping $1,000.
The last thing you need complicating your already jam-packed holiday season is a car crash. Follow these tips to ensure that the often dangerous road conditions this time of year don’t get the better of you.
And if you’ve been injured in a car accident, contact our team of the best car accident attorneys in Utah. Even if the other driver only bore part of the fault for the accident, you deserve to receive compensation for their share of the negligence.
As you prepare to leave your house during the holiday season, it’s important to be aware of the potential dangers on the road. Despite being called the “most wonderful time of the year,” it can also be a hazardous period for driving. Discover some ways to ensure safety while driving on the road in this infographic.