Winter and the holidays are a joyful time – or they should be, anyway. For too many people, however, the holiday dream turns into a nightmare when an untimely vehicle accident interrupts their celebration and replaces it with all of the difficulties that an accident entails. Unfortunately, accidents are particularly common during major holidays.
Why the Holidays Are So Dangerous
At least three factors render driving during the winter holidays more dangerous than just about any other time:
- Intoxicated driving, especially around traditional “party holidays” such as New Year’s Eve: The danger is not limited to party holidays, however – spiked eggnog tends to disappear quickly around Christmas time, for example. Even if you don’t drink, it pays to remember that the driver coming the other way might not share your scruples.
- Bad weather: In the US, two of the biggest holidays (Christmas and New Year’s) are scheduled in the dead of winter when icy roads and low visibility are common occurrences. Accident rates are particularly high after freezing rain.
- Drowsy driving: Many people take long road trips to visit relatives during the holidays, resulting in fatigue in the worst place you would ever want to find it – behind the wheel of a moving vehicle, often on an Interstate highway. This is particularly likely to be the case in 2020-2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic causes people to shy away from plane flights in favor of road tips in private automobiles.
How to Stay Safe
Observing a few simple principles can dramatically reduce your odds of being injured in a vehicle accident over the holidays, even in the face of serious mistakes made by other drivers. The following are some of the most important principles you need to remember:
Stay alert at the wheel
The best antidote to drowsy driving by another motorist is hyper-alert driving by you. Keep your eye on the road and on other vehicles, and keep your mind on what you are doing more than at other times of the year.
Leave early and use navigation apps
Leave early for your destination to give yourself plenty of time so that you are not tempted to rush. Get mobile data and download a navigation app such as Waze, which will not only provide you with directions but will also notify you of upcoming traffic hazards (“Caution – vehicle stopped on the side of the road ahead!”). Keep maps in case you lose your data connection.
Cultivate the art of continuously imagining what you would do if any of the other drivers on the road made a serious error. Once you develop the habit of constantly calculating these scenarios in your head, they become second nature and your likelihood of getting into an accident decreases dramatically. Leave plenty of stopping distance and plenty of time for another driver to recover from a stupid mistake.
Drive at an appropriate speed, even if it is below the posted speed limit
The posted speed limit is a maximum, not a minimum. During inclement weather, hazardous road conditions can develop that might render driving at the posted speed limit downright suicidal. It has been estimated that for every one percent increase in your speed, your risk of an accident increases by two percent, your risk of serious injury increases by three percent, and your risk of dying increases by four percent.
Use common sense
In other words, don’t drink and drive, don’t text and drive, don’t drag race, etc.
Plan for the weather
Check the weather constantly, especially if you are going to be driving for a while because the weather could change dramatically while you are en route to your destination.
Watch out for black ice
Black ice is perhaps your most dangerous enemy on the road because it leaves you with no friction and it is very difficult to see. Drive carefully and pay close attention to the cars in front of you. If you see one of them sliding, you will probably have spotted black ice.
Regularly service your vehicle
Bald tires and bad brakes are among the most dangerous of all traffic hazards, especially on slick roads. Even an empty gas tank can be a hazard if it causes you to stall where other vehicles find it difficult to stop.
Special Case: Driving on New Years’ Eve
New Year’s Eve is arguably the most dangerous night of the year – and it is the night when many people find it most difficult to stay home. The following are some tips to make sure you won’t be spending New Year’s Day in the hospital.
Designate a Driver
Decide in advance who will stay sober and drive everyone home after the night’s festivities are over. Be warned: Some form of compensation might be required for your “designated driver.”
Make It a Sleepover
If you are attending a house party at a friend’s house, or if someone rented a hotel room, consider making advance arrangements to spend the night at your party venue, even if it means crashing out on a sofa for a few hours.
Grab a Cab
Taxis (or Ubers/Lyfts, if you are so inclined) might be hard to catch on New Year’s Eve, but waiting for one is better than cooling your heels in the drunk tank downtown. Make a reservation or book online while you’re still at your party so that there will be no need to interrupt the festivities to wait for your ride.
“Cloistering” is a fashionable way of saying “staying home.” Considering all of the annoyances and dangers surrounding New Year’s Eve – ubiquitous police presence, drunk drivers, long lines, sardine-packed venues, sky-high prices, and the need for a sober driver on a night when everyone wants to drink – staying home on New Year’s Eve (gasp!) might just be your best option.
If You Get Hurt, 303 Legal, P.C. Will Fight to Make Sure You Are Generously Compensated for Your Injuries
The experienced personal injury legal team at 303 Legal, P.C., have handled all kinds of vehicle accidents, from car accidents to motorcycle accidents to truck accidents. We learned long ago that no two cases are alike, and no two clients are alike. We will take a personalized, individual look at your case so that you can act effectively to secure the compensation you deserve.
The longer you wait, the weaker your claim becomes. Contact 303 Legal, P.C., immediately so that we can investigate and press your claim. Contact us online, call our office directly, or visit our office in Cedar Rapids, IA. There is no time like the present to take decisive action!