Driving during the holiday season comes with additional challenges compared to other times of the year. That’s due to several factors that can increase accident risks, including poor weather, more traffic and increased alcohol consumption.
With factors like these, it comes as no surprise that the holidays can be a deadly time on U.S. roads. According to NHTSA, nearly 800 Americans died in motor vehicle crashes between Christmas and New Year’s Day in 2019 – making it far and above the most deadly time of year.
Though things have certainly been different this year, roadway risks still remain.
COVID-19 & Holiday Travel
As COVID-19 rates climb, cities and states across the nation are adopting policies to limit public gatherings and encourage Americans to postpone or avoid holiday travel and multi-family get-togethers.
While the pandemic is likely to change holiday travel and driving behavior this season, it isn’t necessarily for the better.
Most Holiday Travelers Will Opt for Vehicles
Though the CDC advises the best way to protect yourself and others from COVID-19 is to stay home, there are still millions of Americans with plans to celebrate the holidays somewhere else.
Thanks to remote work and kids being out of school, many people are opting for extended vacations. Lower demand for air travel and a wait-and-see travel trend also signals that those who will make last-minute decisions to travel for the holidays will overwhelmingly do so by vehicle.
According to AAA:
- Experts expect air travel volume and other modes of transportation, including buses, trains and cruises, to be substantially lower than in previous years. Travel by automobile could account for 95% of all holiday travel.
- Lower gas prices and optimism about new vaccines may prompt more people to travel as compared to Thanksgiving, even though social distancing and avoidance of large crowds is still the best method for controlling the spread of the virus.
Drunk Driving May Be a Bigger Problem
Drunk driving accidents and fatalities have historically been clustered around the holiday season, but unique factors brought about by the pandemic may make that problem worse.
Two of the biggest reasons why:
- Increased alcohol consumption: While lockdowns and other restrictions on social gatherings may limit places where holiday revelers can have a drink, they have also been tied to increased alcohol consumption and binge drinking, according to the American Heart Association. Based on skyrocketing alcohol sales from earlier in the year and continued anxiety over the pandemic, millions of people will still be drinking this holiday season.
- Fewer options for a sober ride: Public transportation and rideshare services like Uber and Lyft have been critical in the fight against drunk driving, but they have also been hit hard by the pandemic. Due to fears of contracting the virus, there are simply fewer rideshare drivers and fewer people willing to use rideshare, taxi or public transit to get around. The result could mean more drivers choosing to get behind the wheel, even when they shouldn’t.
Holiday Driving Safety Tips
Whether you’re planning an extended trip or will need to get behind the wheel during the holidays, prioritizing safety and vigilance will be crucial to keeping yourself and your loved ones safe.
Here are a few important tips:
- Prepare for winter weather: Driving safely in poor weather conditions is challenging even for the most experienced drivers. When driving in the winter months, exercise an abundance of caution, being sure to take it slow and steady, watch for other drivers and perform a vehicle inspection to ensure your car is ready for snow or ice before you head out.
- Plan ahead: Being prepared can make all the difference. Make sure your vehicle is ready in case of emergencies by keeping up with routine maintenance, checking tire pressure, and taking your vehicle to the mechanic for a full-point inspection. It’s also wise to pack a roadside emergency kit to keep in your car at all times and bring extra snacks to avoid having to stop.
- Have a sober ride: Celebrating the season with alcohol is perfectly acceptable, but driving after drinking is not. Whether you plan to have a few drinks or partake in recreational activities, make sure you have a plan for a sober ride or where you’ll be staying for the night.
- Skip the mask if you’re driving alone: If you’ll be driving alone, it’s best not to wear a face covering. Though they should be worn when you’re out and about, they can hinder your ability to drive safely, especially if you wear eyeglasses that can be fogged by breathing.
- Take COVID-19 precautions: When traveling this holiday season, remember to take COVID precautions by practicing social distancing, wearing a face covering, and washing your hands – especially after making any stops at gas stations or stores. Make sure you have sanitizer and extra masks in your car and travel only with members of your immediate family or social group.
- Stay Alert: Driving drowsy can be as dangerous as driving drunk. If you’re taking a longer trip, make a plan to switch drivers or take breaks along the way so someone awake and alert is always behind the wheel.
Protecting Your Rights After an Auto Accident
Planning ahead and practicing safe driving habits can only do so much to protect us on public roads. Unfortunately, there’s little to protect us against the negligence of others.
If you are involved in a motor vehicle accident, taking a few important steps can make the difference when it comes to protecting your health, the safety of others, and your right to a recovery of your damages through a personal injury claim. This includes calling 911 immediately after an accident, seeking medical treatment and following up with your doctor, and consulting a qualified attorney who can evaluate your case and guide you through the legal journey ahead.
Our team at The Perecman Firm, P.L.L.C., hopes you stay safe and healthy this holiday season. As always, our attorneys are available to speak with anyone who has questions about their rights following preventable accidents. For a free consultation, call or contact us online.