The holiday season is approaching quickly, and it’s crucial for all drivers to know the inherent risks of holiday travel. Statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicate a sharp spike in the number of crashes, injuries, and fatalities during the holiday months. The most dangerous days to drive are holidays and the days before and after holidays. There is a notable increase in the number of DUI arrests and accidents around winter holidays, including Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.
Many Americans attend at least one holiday party with friends, family, or even coworkers at employer-provided holiday events. When these parties involve alcohol, it is essential for all partygoers to understand the severe risks of driving under the influence.
If you’re interested in learning more about what causes auto accidents throughout the year, speak to a Houston accident attorney.
Holiday Crash Statistics
According to the NHTSA, 3,067 people died in vehicle crashes during the month of December in 2016. Of those fatalities, 781 occurred due to impaired driving. The most affected age group includes drivers between 18 and 29, and drivers between the ages of 21 and 24 had the highest rate of drunken driving accidents. About 38% of December traffic fatalities happen on Christmas Day and 41% happen on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.
While alcohol is a major contributing factor in the sharp increase in fatal accidents during the holiday season, traffic congestion is another problem. There are many more vehicles on the road traveling for the holidays, and this naturally leads to more accidents. Drivers in unfamiliar areas must not only contend with unknown roads and winter weather, but very congested traffic. Driving in an unfamiliar place can be stressful for many drivers, and the additional factors of bad weather, poor visibility, more traffic, and potentially impaired drivers make for a very dangerous situation.
Drivers should adopt the habit of driving defensively. This means driving at or near the speed limit and staying alert for changing road conditions and traffic patterns. Defensive driving also means making way for faster-moving traffic and potentially dangerous drivers. If you notice a driver swerving or driving dangerously, have a passenger phone the police to report the driver’s location and the vehicle’s make and model. If you’re driving alone, pull over and park in a safe place to report the drunk driver.
Avoiding Holiday Season Accidents
Drivers can take several steps to avoid holiday car crashes. Every driver has a responsibility to follow the rules of the road and operate their vehicles safely and legally at all times. Holiday drivers can avoid accidents by planning their routes and giving themselves plenty of time to reach their destinations. Rushing and speeding, especially through unfamiliar territory, is a good way to cause a serious accident.
Anyone who consumes alcohol at a holiday party or family gathering should make alternative travel plans. There are many rideshare services like Uber and Lyft operating all over the country, and these services can be a valuable alternative to public transportation, taxis, or driving under the influence. If there is any room for doubt concerning your ability to drive safely, it is always wise to err on the side of caution and find someone to drive you home.
If you plan on enjoying a holiday party close to home, then it’s wise to go with a group or have a designated driver or some other travel plan to avoid a possible DUI accident or arrest. The risk of an accident dramatically increases while under the influence of alcohol or illicit drugs. An impaired driver will experience slowed reaction time, impaired hand-eye coordination, and have trouble making snap decisions that can mean the difference between life and death on the road in some conditions.