By Marcus Fernandez
Most folks look forward to the holiday season and the opportunity to get together with friends and relatives. Unfortunately, the holiday season is the deadliest time of the year for drivers and occupants of cars, according to the federal government.
The American Automobile Association forecasts a record 115.2 million people will travel at least 50 miles from home during the 2023 holiday season. 103.6 million of these going by automobile. To help you stay safe during your travels, here is a look at the common causes of holiday car accidents. We’ll also provide suggestions for reaching your destination without mishaps.
There were 5,261 alcohol-related crashes on Florida roads that resulted in 428 fatalities and 3,083 injuries in 2022. December accounted for the highest number of those accidents for the year with 503.
Driving under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or a combination of both impairs the ability of a driver to safely maintain control over their vehicle. Common substances that impair the ability to drive a car include the following:
Just because a drug is legally available over the counter or is prescribed for you by a physician does not mean that it is safe to take before operating a motor vehicle. Some legally obtainable medications cause drowsiness, dizziness, and other side effects. These may impair your driving ability. Ask your doctor or pharmacist about how medication may affect you before taking it and driving.
About 25% of fatal car accidents in the Sunshine State involve driver impairment, according to the Florida Department of Transportation. Impaired driving endangers you, the occupants of your vehicle, other motorists, pedestrians, and other users of public streets, roads, and highways.
You can avoid putting yourself and others at risk of death and injury and also avoid being arrested for violating the state’s driving under the influence law by doing the following:
- Enjoy the holiday festivities, but do not drive when the celebration includes alcoholic beverages or drugs. These will impair your ability to drive. Arrange for a designated driver before the party starts or call for a taxi or ride-share.
- If you encounter another vehicle operating erratically, it may be better to maintain a safe distance. Do not attempt to pass it.
- If you are the host of a holiday gathering, all beverages containing alcohol should be served by you to your guests. This method allows you to monitor consumption, prevent guests from consuming too much alcohol, and identify those guests who should not be driving themselves home.
- Take the car keys away from anyone who does not appear fit to drive. Offer to call a taxi or ride-share service for them.
Whether you are a guest or host a holiday season gathering, coffee does not counter the effects of too much alcohol. The body needs time to process alcohol before a person is sober. Coffee does not accelerate the process.
Safe driving requires your full attention. Anything that diverts your eyes or attention from operating your car is a distraction that may cause an accident. Common activities drivers engage in that may be distractions include:
- Texting or talking on a cellphone, even when using a hands-free device.
- Turning to correct children seated in the rear of a car.
- Engaging in conversations with other occupants of the vehicle.
- Eating and drinking while driving.
- Adjusting your car’s navigation system, radio, or entertainment system.
- Reading written directions or looking at maps while driving.
A car traveling at a speed of 55 mph covers a distance equivalent to the length of a football field in only five seconds. Turning your head while driving to scold your child or look at your phone for the address of your destination is as dangerous as driving blindfolded for 300 yards at 55 mph. If you must do something that may be a distraction, pull over to a safe location off the road. Wait until you come to a complete stop.
Speeding and aggressive driving
The holiday season can be stressful, and that stress can cause motorists to drive faster than posted speed limits or engage in unsafe and aggressive driving behaviors. Reduce driving stress with the following safety tips:
- Whether going across town to do holiday shopping or driving to a holiday gathering at someone’s home, avoid rushing. Leave plenty of time to get to your destination. Take into consideration holiday traffic congestion, and give yourself enough time to get where you’re going. Do not speed, tailgate, or engage in similarly aggressive and dangerous driving behaviors.
- Plan your route in advance and program your car’s navigation system before beginning your travels. If you get lost or need to adjust your route to accommodate heavier-than-usual traffic conditions, pull off the road to a safe location, such as a parking lot, and plan a new route before getting back on the road.
- If you encounter an angry or aggressive driver, remain calm and do not react to it. Focus on safe driving while avoiding eye contact, passing, or otherwise engaging with the offending motorist.
Accept that delays happen despite your best efforts to avoid them. Your primary goal should be to get to where you are going without creating a dangerous situation.
Know the weather conditions at your destination
If your holiday season travel plans include road trips to states where you may encounter snow and ice, be prepared. It may have been a while, if ever since you drove in wintry conditions. Equip your car with a brush and scrapper to remove snow and ice from the windshield.
Driving on ice or through snow requires reducing your speed, leaving more space than you might typically leave between your car and the car ahead of you, and adjusting how you steer and brake to avoid losing control. Also, keep in mind that driving in poor weather conditions can be stressful. Take breaks to ease the tension and relax before getting back on the road.
Car accident help when you need it
One thing about holiday season car accidents is you cannot account for the negligence and reckless behavior of other motorists. If a car accident caused by the fault of another driver leaves you with serious injuries, reach out to a Tampa personal injury lawyer at KFB Law. Learn more about your right to recover compensation for the harm done to you by contacting KFB Law today for a free, no-obligation consultation.