Holiday safety is an issue that affects many Americans each year, typically from late November to mid-January, when families gather, parties are scheduled, and travel spikes across the country. Many people choose to travel during the holidays by automobile, carrying the highest fatality rate of any major form of transportation. In 2013, 343 people died on New Year’s Day, 360 on Thanksgiving Day and another 88 on Christmas Day, according to The National Safety Council Injury Facts 2015 Report. Alcohol-impaired fatalities represented 31% of the total fatalities. Before you and your family head out this year for your holiday travels, please take some basic precautions to ensure your family remains safe and injury-free throughout the entire holiday season.
The first step is to make sure your vehicle is operating properly. The lights, oil, tires (condition and pressure level), belts and hoses, brake fluid, antifreeze fluid and the condition of the battery should all be checked by a professional before leaving. Changes in weather often cause vehicle parts to fail or wear down more quickly, so you’ll want to make sure everything is in good condition before heading out. Also, keep the gas tank at least half-filled to prevent fuel line freezing in colder climates.
Make sure to plan your route in advance and check traffic reports and weather conditions before you leave. Follow speed limits and remember excess traffic and congestion on the roads may mean you’ll have to travel below posted limits. Drive defensively and don’t respond to aggressive drivers: It’s far less frustrating to let an aggressive driver pass than to become aggressive yourself.
Be prepared for all emergencies! Stock a blanket, boots, an extra pair of gloves, and a flashlight in the trunk of your car, along with any necessary tools in case you need to do some repairs. Traction mats, kitty litter or sand can be used to improve traction on icy surfaces.
Don’t forget to secure your home when you leave, and do not post on social media sites that you will be away. Timers to turn lights on and off can give the impression that the property is occupied and could deter intruders. If possible, have a neighbor or relative check on the house or even park a car in the driveway. Let someone know where you are going and what time you expect to be there just for extra measure.
Make sure to use a designated driver or hire local transportation to ensure that all of your family and guests make it home safely after a holiday party; alcohol, over-the-counter or illegal drugs, and even sleep deprivation all can cause impairment. It sounds simple, but a good night’s sleep before departing can even help make the trip more enjoyable. Be sure to take regular breaks during long road trips as it can be very dangerous to drive when you’re tired.
Finally, just relax! Driving during the holiday season can be stressful, especially when dealing with other frustrated holiday travelers. Frustration can lead to poor decisions and risky behavior behind the wheel; however, with the right attitude and some pre-planning it can also be more enjoyable.