When you drive to your relatives’ houses for the holidays, you likely see increased law enforcement on the road. When you leave, your relatives tell you to “drive safe.” That’s because intuitively, holidays are more dangerous times to drive; more people are on the road, people are deviating from their typical driving patterns, and they may be engaging in activities that impair their ability to drive, such as consuming alcohol or driving while tired.
But are holidays as dangerous to drive in as they seem to be? And if so, which holidays are the most dangerous? A new study from Texas Injury Lawyers looked at data gathered between 2012 and 2016 to determine the accident rates and fatality rates of various holidays to keep drivers informed and safer during the holiday season.
As you might suspect, the holidays are, indeed, less safe than typical driving periods. Holidays see, on average, an increase in crashes of 34 percent. There’s also an increase in fatalities of 38 percent, with a 34 percent increase in incapacitating injuries. That’s a marked increase not to be taken lightly, especially considering the overall rate of fatalities has increased in the past few years, with a total of 40,200 deaths from motor vehicle collisions in 2016.
Still, that 30-ish percent increase pales in comparison to the two most dangerous holidays of the year: New Year’s Day and Thanksgiving. New Year’s Day is associated with a 95 percent increase in crashes overall, with more than a 54 percent increase in fatalities. Thanksgiving features a 100 percent increase in injuries, and a 64 percent increase in deaths. Lesser holidays, like St. Patrick’s Day, Halloween, and Labor Day, do see an overall increase in accidents, injuries, and fatalities, but not to the same degree as bigger-ticket holidays.
Tips for Driving Safer During the Holiday Season
You owe it to yourself, your family members, your friends, and even other drivers on the road to take a few steps to drive safer during this holiday season. These tips can help you lower the overall statistics, and avoid becoming a victim of the increased collision rate:
- Avoid alcohol consumption. If you plan on driving, avoid consuming alcohol. Even a couple of drinks—which will likely put you below the legal limit for driving—can instantly double your risk of being involved in a collision. At and above the legal limit (0.08 BAC), your risk triples, and continues to climb with your inebriation. If you want to be festive and drink, be sure to allow ample time to become sober (several hours, minimum), or better yet, make accommodations to stay the night. Any increase in risk will be amplified by the increased risk of holiday travel.
- Stay alert and awake. If you feel any deviation in your normal levels of wakefulness or alertness, don’t drive. If you’re tired or distracted, your risk of being in a collision will increase. Don’t push through just because you want to get home faster. Instead, take some time for a nap; even 20 minutes of sleep can help you feel more alert, and prepare you for a safer drive.
- Leave in plenty of time. If you’re going somewhere for the holidays, give yourself plenty of time to get there. If you rush yourself, or impose a strict time deadline, you’ll be inclined to drive faster or neglect certain safety standards to meet that deadline. Wake up a little earlier, manage your time, and don’t be afraid to be a little late if it means driving safer.
- Avoid the busiest travel hours. Learn the busiest days and times for travel, and try to avoid them if possible. The day before Thanksgiving, New Year’s Eve, and Christmas Eve and Christmas morning tend to be the busiest days for travel, so if you can, try to leave a day or two early. If you can’t, at least avoid traveling during peak hours. Roads with fewer vehicles are inherently safer, with fewer chances for a collision.
- Be prepared for an emergency. In case you are involved in an accident, it pays to have an emergency kit ready for use. This is especially important during winter months, when you’re more likely to be stranded (and when conditions are harsher). Make sure you have emergency flares and lighting, water, jumper cables, kitty litter or a similar way to gain traction, and a phone charger or other way to get help.
Holiday travel is inherently more dangerous, but that doesn’t mean you have to stay home. As long as you recognize the risks involved, and make a little extra effort, you can lower your personal chances of being involved in a significant collision.