According to the National Safety Council (NSC), automobile accidents produce the highest holiday fatality rate of any form of transportation in the United States.
In 2020, 340 people were killed in automobile accidents on Christmas Day, while 163 died on New Year’s Day. Approximately one-third of these accidents involved drunk driving.
While there is always some risk involved in driving, there are plenty of things you can do to be prepared for emergencies and stay safe on the road:
- Never drive under the influence of alcohol or narcotics. Assign a designated driver who will remain sober for the trip home after parties.
- Remember that even prescription or over-the-counter medication can produce drowsiness, especially when mixed with alcohol, so be sure to read the label or speak to your pharmacist.
- Don’t drive while texting or looking at your phone. This should be an obvious one, but, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, distracted driving caused by phones caused 3,142 fatalities in 2019. It might be tempting to maximize family time with a video call on the road or check up on arrivals at the party by texting your hosts, but pulling over to use your phone or designating those tasks to a passenger will help you stay safe.
- Keep an emergency kit consisting of items like flashlights, blankets, batteries and a first aid kit in your car. Accidents in bad weather away from city centers could mean having to stay warm while waiting for help, so be prepared by keeping essential items readily available in case of emergency.
- Wear seatbelts. This can be frustrating during long drives with excitable children, but seatbelts save lives and prevent injuries. According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than half of people under the age of 44 killed in car accidents in 2018 were not wearing seat belts. If you or your passengers feel constricted or uncomfortable wearing them for long periods, schedule rest stops where everyone can get out of the car and walk around.
Many factors combine to create high-risk driving conditions over the holidays, such as bad weather, busy highways and impatience to arrive at your destination. Don’t increase the threats by adding poor judgement and by being unprepared for emergencies. Plan your trip, be patient and stay alert to make sure you arrive alive.