The holidays are a joyous and celebratory time of the year for families and friends. They can also be a dangerous time with significant numbers of people on the road, traveling near and far for family gatherings, holiday parties, and vacations. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, road traffic crashes are the leading cause of death for people ages 1-54. To keep you and your family safe while traveling, here are some helpful tips for this holiday season:
Be Prepared – Before you hit the road, be sure you are well prepared. Start with your car. Take care of any necessary maintenance, such as an oil change or tire rotation. Check the windshield wiper blades. This is extremely important if you should encounter rain or snow. You need to be able to see clearly out your windshield, especially in unfamiliar surroundings. Stock your car with emergency equipment, such as a blanket, flashlight, jumper cables, ice scraper, cell phone charger, etc. These items will be helpful in the unfortunate event that your car breaks down or you get into an accident.
Check Driving Conditions – As you plan your route, consider the ideal driving conditions. Aim to leave at a time that avoids the heaviest traffic. This often means leaving very early in the morning. If inclement weather is in the forecast, plan ahead. If it is possible to leave before or after the brunt of the storm, do so. Plan your route so that you stick to the main highways, where convenience stores, gas stations, law enforcement, and emergency medical services are more accessible. Check to see if there is any road work along the route, and build in travel time accordingly.
Focus on the Road – There can be many distractions on the road. The kids are whining, Grandma is calling your cell phone to see where you are, your GPS is telling you to make a left turn, and you’re stressed out to boot. Make sure you are well-rested before you depart. If you get drowsy or sleepy while driving, stop and take a break. In absolutely no circumstances should you get behind the wheel if you have had any alcohol to drink, used drugs, or are on medication that impairs your ability to drive. You need to be 100 percent present and focused on the road while traveling during this hectic time.
Stay Vigilant – If you are driving to an unfamiliar location or along an unfamiliar route, remain vigilant during your travels. Criminals can take advantage of you if you are not attentive to your surroundings. When you stop for a break, park in a well-lit area. Do not keep valuable items within plain sight in your car. Be cognizant of your appearance. If you look like a clueless tourist, you might be a target for burglary or worse.
Drive Cautiously – The holidays are a busy time on the road. Not only are countless people traveling to visit family and friends, but large semi-trucks are speeding down the highways to deliver just-in-time holiday presents. Wintery conditions like snow, sleet, and freezing rain only make matters worse. Drive with caution, and constantly be watching for wayward drivers. Practice defensive driving by always using your blinkers, checking your blind spots before merging or changing lanes, double-checking in both directions before entering an intersection, and maintaining a sufficient following distance from the car in front of you. Lastly, make sure that everyone in your car has their seat belt buckled, always.
If you do find yourself in an accident this holiday season, do not rush to get to your destination. Take time to document what happened, including taking pictures of your car and the other vehicle and of any injuries sustained in the accident, and getting the other driver’s contact and insurance information. Call the police to report the accident. Before departing, make sure you are unharmed and your car is safe to drive.
It may help to contact an attorney about your accident, especially if your car sustained significant damage or you experienced serious injury. An experienced lawyer can advise you about your rights, gather crucial evidence, and if necessary, pursue compensation on your behalf.