Although traffic decreased substantially during the height of the pandemic, our nation’s roads and highways were traveled heavily over the recent Thanksgiving holiday, and more of the same is expected for Christmas and New Year’s. AAA estimates that 107 million Americans could be traveling during the Christmas/New Year’s holidays from December 23 to January 1, a historical record high. The closer it gets to the end of the year, the more vehicles you will see on the road, and drivers will be under more and more pressure to finish their shopping and get their work done. If all those factors were not dangerous enough, you have shorter days and longer nights with more time driving in the dark and the possibility of wet, snowy, and icy roads. Anyone who is out driving during the holidays, whether it be to run errands, visit family, or travel, needs to stay aware of the dangers of having a car accident and take the necessary steps to stay safe.
How Can I Prepare for Safe Holiday Driving?
People tend to rush out in their vehicles during the holidays because they are in a hurry, needing to grab a last-minute gift or pick up their children from holiday parties. Instead of speeding out of your neighborhood, plan to leave 10 minutes early. Also take the time to check the weather conditions and always keep a windshield scraper in your car. Make sure that your car has enough gas, and if you have not had maintenance performed lately, now might be the time. Check the tire air pressure as well and put your cell phone on Do not disturb.
If you plan on a long drive, be sure to be well rested before leaving the house and plan your route on your GPS ahead of time. Always allow yourself extra time during the holidays, because unless you drive in the middle of the night, you will likely hit heavy traffic at some point. When possible, plan to drive outside of morning and evening rush hours and on Christmas Eve Day or New Year’s Day; those are times when people leave for and return from long trips. If bad weather is predicted, you might want to push back your departure time accordingly; better to arrive late and safe than not at all.
It is also a good idea to have an emergency kit in the car, with items such as a properly inflated spare tire, extra chargers, jumper cables, a flashlight, bottled water, non-perishable food, a first-aid kit, and a tool kit. If planning to travel to a cold climate, bring along extra blankets, sand in case you need traction on ice, a collapsible shovel, reflective triangles, and extra clothing.
Defensive Driving Tips for the Holidays
There is no need to speed when driving, and during the holidays many people exceed the posted limits. Stay clear of these people, and allow extra room when passing and following other drivers. Tailgating is always a bad idea, but it frequently happens and is very dangerous; the best advice is to stay away from aggressive drivers. Although they can make you frustrated and angry, if you quickly and safely move out of their way, they will speed along and you will forget about them in minutes.
Also be sure to maintain a safe distance from tractor trailers making their holiday deliveries. They have large blind spots and may not see other vehicles around them. Never stay too close behind one either, because they also have long stopping distances and may not be able to stop in enough time to prevent other vehicles from crashing into them. It is also unwise to be near one that is driving down a steep hill; if you feel unsafe, simply pull over for a few minutes. The four rules for defensive driving are as follows:
- Stay in complete control of your speed.
- Avoid distractions and remain fully alert
- Be able to react immediately to drivers and driving situations.
- Understand that other drivers will not behave like they should or how you would.
Drinking and Driving during the Holidays
It is pretty much assumed that people will be drinking, drugging, and driving during Christmas and New Year’s, so you need to keep an eye out for these drivers. Their driving behaviors can mimic confused and distracted drivers, and you will probably encounter plenty of those as well. During this time of year, out-of-towners who are unfamiliar with the area might be busy checking their GPS devices, making illegal turns, and looking out their windows for landmarks. Others are checking their texts to see where the party is or to remember what is on their gift lists. If you see a vehicle driving too slowly or making irregular movements, give them plenty of extra space.
If you plan to imbibe, do not make plans to drive. Like other states, Delaware has stiff penalties for drunk drivers. Alcohol-impaired driving contributes to thousands of accident deaths every year, and driving while impaired by drugs can be just as dangerous. Protect yourself and others by finding a designated driver ahead of time; otherwise, just set up a rideshare service to transport you to and from the event. An alternative is to spend the night; this is an especially good idea if you plan to attend an out-of-town party.
How Can I Avoid Other Distractions?
As little as two seconds of distraction from the road greatly increases your chances of getting into an accident. Safe driving requires your complete focus, so again, put the cell phone on Do not disturb. Do not fiddle around with your GPS while driving either; if you are lost or need to find another route, pull over somewhere safe. Also, avoid eating while driving, because this is another major distraction. You have to look at what you are doing; plus people drop food and spill drinks all the time when they are driving.
If you are running late and did not have time to do your makeup or shave, do not do this behind the wheel either. Although this is often seen as a great source of humor for other drivers who witness it, personal grooming takes your eyes and hands away from the task at hand. Also, try not to get into arguments with passengers or play with your pets while driving. These are all very distracting and can lead to accidents.
A Few Final Holiday Driving Tips
Patience is key for avoiding car accidents, so always give yourself extra time; expect traffic; and be ready for delays, unsafe drivers, and distractions on the road. There will also be a lot of pedestrians out and about, plus bicyclists, motorcyclists, and scooter riders if the weather is nice enough. Slow down when you see them, and be extra careful at intersections. Also, watch out for people exiting parked vehicles and give them some extra room; if the street is too narrow, you may need to stop.
If you start to feel fatigued on a drive, pull over somewhere safe and ask a passenger to take over. If you are driving alone, a cup of coffee and a snack may help, but take a rest break to drink and eat. Finally, always remember to buckle your seat belt and make sure that everyone else in the vehicle has theirs on as well.
Delaware Car Accident Lawyers at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC, Help Those Injured in an Accident over the Holidays
The hectic holiday season increases the chances of having a car accident. If you have been injured in an accident during the holidays, reach out to the experienced Delaware car accident lawyers at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC. can help. We will investigate the cause of the accident and fight to secure the compensation for which you are entitled. Call us today at 302-888-1221 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Wilmington, Delaware, we serve clients in Dover, Newark, and Middletown.