Another Preachy Article About Holiday Driving

Photo: Jeni Kaybee

This could start with one those captivating intro lines that gets your attention about how many people die on the roads in the Christmas and New Year season, but wouldn’t that be a buzz kill? Everyone understands this. It’s a tired speech that people don’t want to hear, but real lives are affected. Though we all want to assume it only happens to other people, odds are high that it will happen to me or you sooner or later.

Last month, I wrote an article on drowsy driving, which pointed out how drowsy driving is much more pervasive than drunk driving. As expected, driving between the hours of midnight and 6:00am are the worst times for drowsy driving. Even night owls have a problem with this. Truck drivers especially push it to the max to try to increase income, despite laws to prevent such behavior. No doubt, truck drivers are as busy during the holidays as anyone else trying to get home to see their families.

One thing is certain, between more cars on the road and poor weather conditions, trying to even predict hazards is nearly impossible. Typical problems of speeding, texting and drunk driving are only exacerbated.

Risking your own health is one thing, but a risk to one is a risk to everyone on the road. NHTSA reminded us last year that a non-drunk driver dies every two and a half hours because of a driver who is drunk. Be reckless for your own sake, but consider other people.

Important recommendations from NHTSA include:

  • Don’t drink and drive. Have a designated driver or another plan for getting home from these magnificent parties. However, this is not the only precaution to take. Drunk Driving accounts for 31% of traffic deaths, meaning that other issues cause even more deaths.
  • Use seat belts and car seats: Always. Fatal injuries reduced by 45% and moderate-to-critical injuries reduced by 50%. Fatal injuries to children under one year of age reduced by 71% when using a car seat. Children 13 and younger should ride in the back seat.
  • Avoid distraction: This bears so much repeating simply because people do heed the advice. Put cell phones away, preferably in the trunk. Eat at rest stops. It’s almost too simple really, pay attention to the task at hand.
  • Be relaxed: Don’t try to do too much in a short time span. Don’t let the holiday pressures of missing work and being financially strapped affect driving. Most significantly, don’t let other bad drivers put you in a more aggressive mood. Let it flow. Give space. Be a defensive driver, though it is easier said than done.
  • Be alert: reports that people who sleep six to seven hours are twice as likely to crash as those sleeping eight or more hours. People who sleep less than five hours are four to five times as likely to crash.

Take some time and caution. When you arrive safely and don’t harm anyone else during your trip it will all be worth it.

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