It should come as no surprise that the holidays are one of the most dangerous times to head out on the road. Not only are more people driving–some estimates suggest it could be as much as 50% more–but people are also driving a longer average distance than usual. Although Thanksgiving ranks as the single most dangerous day for motorists, Christmas and New Year’s Day are both right in the mix on the list of the six most dangerous U.S. holidays.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, the average trip over the holidays (typically to visit family) is 275 miles, up from the average distance traveled for “long trips” throughout the rest of the year. Additionally, the prevalence of social drinking at family gatherings and celebrations leads to significantly more intoxicated drivers on the road. In fact, 42% of all automotive fatalities on Christmas involve alcohol in some capacity, and on New Year’s Day, the figure jumps to 46%.
Obviously drinking and driving should be avoided at all costs, but even the most uncompromising teetotaler still has to contend with other drivers who may not be exercising the same level of caution. For that reason, it’s sometimes best (when possible) to plan accordingly by spending the night at your family’s or booking a nearby hotel and postponing your return trip until the following morning.
If you plan on engaging in some drinking over the holidays–and statistics suggest you probably are–it’s a good idea to plan on having a designated driver or taking a cab/uber for shorter trips. Not only are police more aggressive in patrolling for DUIs over the holidays, when you couple that with the fact that two-thirds of drunk driving convictions are for first time offenders, you’d be foolish to think you’re safe having a few drinks and then hitting the road.
Accidents will happen, and some are unavoidable, but it’s always important to do what you can in order to limit your risks and protect yourself from becoming a tragic statistic. So, as always, use good judgment this holiday season and be sure to exercise caution, stay sober, and be aware of the increased dangers of holiday driving. You know what they say, “an ounce of prevention…” and all that.
Enjoy the holidays, stay safe, and see you in the New Year!