Each year, millions of Americans will travel for the holiday season, from Dec. 23 to Jan. 1. That is a lot of people on the road, creating a great possibility for more car accidents. While Memorial Day, Labor Day, and the Fourth of July have the greatest number of car accidents, winter holiday traffic is fraught with its own unique dangers. Listed below are ways you can safely travel this holiday season.
Getting to your destination should be a strategic endeavor. While you plan your route, also plan your meals, gas stops, rest breaks, and lodging arrangements. Hastily leaving could end up costing you time and money on a road trip.
Make Realistic Deadlines
When planning your trip, remember that the sun sets earlier in the winter. While it may have been acceptable to drive until 8:00 p.m. on a summer trip, you will be in total darkness at the same time in winter. If you are not a good night driver or get sleepy in the evening, be realistic about stopping at a hotel for the night. If you are not used to being up in the middle of the night, do not plan to wake at 3:00 a.m. to finish your trip.
Get Enough Sleep
While at your destination, be cognizant of sleep. While you may be in a different bed, and your waking and sleeping hours may be vastly different at your holiday destination, sleep is still vital for both mental and physical health.
Take Rest Breaks
When on the road to and from your holiday destination, do not push yourself to keep going. Frequent rest breaks will refresh both your mind and body. Take time to eat or even nap.
Do Not Text and Drive
Texting while driving is not a good idea at any time of the year. If you must communicate while driving, use a hands-free system for your cellphone. Likewise, set all your driving directions beforehand, and use the voice feature to avoid frequent glances at your cellphone.
Before setting out on holiday travel, do what you can to minimize distractions. Preset climate controls, radio volume, and other systems. Set the cellphone up for hands-free operation. Keep your open water bottle within easy reach. Set and communicate ground rules for passengers, such as no loud music or games.
Keep Children Occupied
Before setting out, plan how you will keep children busy and quiet. Provide games or books for them, movies and video games, and snacks and drinks. Let them know the rules and the consequences for breaking them.
No Drinking and Driving
The holidays are a great time to catch up with friends and family and to celebrate. While alcohol can be used safely, you should not consume it if you plan to drive. Designate a driver, call a cab or rideshare service, or arrange to stay the night at someone’s home if you have been drinking.
Prepare Your Vehicle
Before driving, take your car in for service. Ensure the tires are in good shape, the headlights and wipers work, and there are no problems with braking, steering, and other systems. Nothing is worse than breaking down while on the road or being stranded at your destination because of car problems.
It is a good idea to always have an emergency car kit in the vehicle at all times of the year. In the winter, this kit may look a little different. In addition to flares, flashlights, repair tools, and other standard equipment, a winter emergency kit should include:
- Extra warm clothes.
- Snow boots.
- Kitty litter or sand for traction.
- Ice scrapers.
- Snow brushes.
- Tire chain.
- Window cleaners.
- Water and nonperishable food.
Obey the Rules of the Road
Drivers do not get a pass from obeying driving rules just because it is the holidays. Speeding is dangerous, especially during the holidays because of more drivers on the road. Be courteous to other drivers, focus on the road and traffic conditions, do not tailgate or change lanes unsafely, and do not do anything else that could cause harm. Drive defensively for safety.
What Causes Holiday Car Accidents?
Part of holiday safety is learning about what causes accidents. Listed below are common causes of holiday car accidents.
From office parties to family get-togethers, this time of year is full of celebrations. However, many holiday gatherings involve alcohol consumption. Statistics show that two to three times more people die in alcohol-related crashes between Thanksgiving and New Year’s.
Distracted driving is a concern any time of the year, including around the holidays. Texting or talking while driving, eating and drinking, playing loud music, and laughing or talking with passengers all create distractions.
During the holiday season, people hit the road at odd times and may push themselves to reach their destinations. Once they have arrived, their sleep patterns may be distorted. The result is that there are many drowsy people on the roads at holiday time, creating the potential for accidents.
For many parts of the country, the holidays fall in the peak time of hazardous weather. Snow, ice, freezing rain, and slush make roads treacherous. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration, 25 percent of weather-related accidents occur on ice or snowy pavement. About 15 percent of crashes happen when snow or sleet is actively falling. More than 1,300 people die each year due to weather hazards on the road.
What if I am in a Holiday Car Accident?
If you are involved in a car accident, you should do the following:
- Call 911 to report the accident. Explain what happened, the location, and any known injuries.
- If stranded in the vehicle, display a distress signal if possible, and raise the car’s hood. Turn on the engine and heater for just 10 minutes each hour. Ensure the car’s tailpipe is clear from snow or other obstructions to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. Open a window slightly for ventilation while the engine is running.
- Stay visible. While waiting, stay in the car for warmth if the vehicle is in a safe place. Turn on the vehicle’s hazard lights and set up road flares to ensure visibility to other drivers. If you must exit the car, watch for other vehicles, and wear reflective clothing or tape if possible.
- Get medical treatment. Even if there are no apparent injuries or pain, accept medical help or assessment from first responders, and seek medical treatment immediately after the accident. Sometimes, injuries do not show up until later.
- Do not admit guilt or blame. Anything you say to police or others can be used against you later. Get the name of the reponding officer and report number so you can get a copy of the accident report.
- Gather evidence if possible. Take pictures and videos of injuries, vehicle damage, road conditions, and the surrounding environment. These pictures will be important in any legal proceeding related to the accident.
- Contact a car accident lawyer. While getting medical attention is always a priority, it makes sense to later consult with a car accident lawyer after an accident. There may be one or more parties at fault.
Virginia Beach Car Accident Lawyers at Anchor Legal Group, PLLC Help Clients Injured in Holiday Collisions
An accident during the holidays can be devastating. If you have been injured by a reckless motorist, you can contact our Virginia Beach car accident lawyers at Anchor Legal Group, PLLC today. Call us at 757-LAW-0000 or contact us online to set up a free consultation. Located in Virginia Beach, we serve clients throughout Chesapeake, Norfolk, Suffolk, Portsmouth, Newport News, Hampton, and Eastern Shore, Virginia. We also serve our clients throughout the United States through our network of associated attorneys.