Posted on December 2nd, 2021 by Zane Cagle
Safe Travel on the Roadways During the Holidays
This is not a post about viruses or safe health habits during the holidays. These are safety reminders about the dangers of holiday road travel. Since March 2020, holiday plans seem to be ever-changing and can be quite frustrating. Many are returning to regular holiday plans involving road travel. We know– we are all sick and tired off safety reminders and “risk assessments” regarding viruses.
The point of this post is not to remind you to mask or how to gather safely, but we want to talk about a regular holiday issue of traffic risks. Since much of the last 18 months have seen reduced road traffic, many seem to have forgotten how nightmarish car crashes can be and how your chance of being in one goes up greatly over the holiday travel period. Maybe you haven’t returned to a regular commute or maybe you have kind of forgotten just how bad traffic can be in “normal times”. This Christmas weekend through New Year’s Eve will probably greatly resemble normal, pre-pandemic road traffic. Nothing ruins holiday plans like a car collision.
While AAA predicted that Thanksgiving travel would recover to pre-pandemic levels, it was close but did not eclipse pre-pandemic numbers. We have seen reduced traffic even throughout 2021 as many people work remotely. Almost everything about “normal” seems changed. The world of physics has not changed. Speeding cars running into others produces the same result–serious injury and death.
If you’re going to be in the car (about 95% of us are at some point in the day), please take just a few moments to remind yourself of common sense safety that is often not that common. Increased travelers and miles can result in increased motor vehicle crash injuries. Many crashes can be avoided with patience and attention. Impatience in traffic and distracted driving can be huge factors in many motor vehicle crashes. Per usual, during this month of December until after the New Year, there are more and more people attending holiday parties and consuming alcoholic beverages. Consuming alcohol during the holidays is not bad, but driving after consuming alcohol can be deadly.
Steps to Take to Improve Your Safety on the Roadways
Wear Your Seat Belt We are seeing a concerning trend in the use of seat belts (MSHP data). In 2020 and 2021, we have seen some decline in the use of seat belts. Seat belts save lives–USE THEM. As a car accident lawyer, I have never spoken to any one that said they regretted wearing their seat belt. Literally, not one client has ever told me that in 20 years. The opposite is not true. Seat belts do not promise that you will not be injured, but they do promise to keep you in the vehicle which increases your likelihood of survival.
Plan Ahead. Spontaneity is fun. Even if you make a last minute trip, doing a little bit of planning can make a big difference. Allow extra time due to traffic so that you will not be driving frantically. No one enjoys sitting in traffic, but there is a whole other level of impatience that occurs when you are late to an appointment or event. Increased traffic causes delays, so plan on it.
Pay Attention. Avoid distracted driving, ie: texting while driving. Utilize the hands free option if you are using your phone or tablet for directions. DO NOT take photos or post things on social media while you are driving! We have all seen people do it or we have been guilty of it ourselves. It is horribly dangerous. Keep your eyes on the road. Several years ago I simply put the phone out of reach to break bad habits. I can still take calls hand’s free through my car, but then I am not tempted to answer in any way via text or search numbers on my phone. We have all been in traffic and saw the car ahead or beside us drifting in and out of lanes like a drunk driver. It is scary as you realize the the distracted driver is responding to traffic as badly as a drunk driver would. The number of PSA’s and warnings about distracted driving have not eluded any of us. We all know that it is not safe to drive while using your hand held phone or tablet.
Sober Driver. Again, this is not a news to any of us. The sober driver is not the driver who “least drunk”. Rather, the sober driver is the driver who has had no alcoholic beverages. Sober rides home often require some advanced planning. If no one in your group is going to be sober, plan accordingly. Plan an alternate whether it is a cab or rideshare such as Uber or Lyft.
Prepare Your Car If you are going to be doing much driving at all, be sure that your vehicle is ready for the road trip. If you’re driving has been greatly reduced since the pandemic, your car may be overdue for maintenance. When it feels as if we never go anywhere, we tend to forget out our vehicle sitting in the driveway. Breaking down on the side of a busy highway or interstate is really inconvenient but actually, it is extremely dangerous, .
Road Fatalities Actually Increased in 2020
While logic would lead us to believe that motor vehicle crash fatalities would decrease if fewer people were on the roadway, that did come true in 2020. US traffic deaths rose 7.2% to 38,680 which was the highest total since 2007. This was true even though Americans drove 13% fewer miles. Likewise, the early part of 2021 first quarter deaths were also the highest since 2007. Even though we saw a drop in miles driven, deaths increased. Experts agree there are several factors involved but the over riding theme, but one factor that jumped was that those who remained on the roads after lockdown engaged in riskier behaviors. Deaths involving motorists not wearing seat belts were up by 15%, speeding related deaths jumped by 10% and fatal crashes involving alcohol rose by 9%.
Keep in mind that increased traffic on the roadways does increase the chances of serious crashes. Additionally, bad and/or risky driving behaviors really drive the danger for all of those on the roadway. Thus, we all have get a grip on ourselves and think about safety for ourselves individually and overall. Certainly, if drivers engage in riskier driving behaviors during hectic holiday traffic, the result will be bad.
Nothing Brings Down a Celebration Like a DUI
Few things cause a bigger downer to a night of merriment than a citation for Driving Under the Influence. Far more tragic is the possibility of injury or death resulting from a motor vehicle collisions. The DUI citation alone can be life changing and may involve losing your license, sky rocketing insurance premiums or loss of your job. Worse still, a motor vehicle crash that causes injury or death is certainly life changing to anyone involved. Choosing to driver while under the influence is simply not worth the nightmare that can be the result whether it involves you, friends or other travelers.
Car collisions are often horrific and tragic. Crashes caused by driving under the influence are even more tragic because they are preventable. It does not take a very severe collision to result in months or years of medical treatment which is life-changing to the person going through the treatment. Motor vehicle collisions occur daily due to inattention, distracting driving, speeding and all other kinds of human errors. No matter the city, county, or state; all of us have been well informed that climbing behind the wheel after you have been drinking is the definition of “negligence”.
Be Alert and Drive Sober
As a driver, you have to focus 100 percent of your attention to the roadway. This applies to any roadway whether you are on a two-lane rural highway or a four-lane interstate. While there are some statistics that we feel at a loss to control, each of us can do our part to protect ourselves and one another through attention and sober driving.
Let’s Celebrate the 2021 Holiday Season!
Let’s fully celebrate the 2021 holiday season by being safe so that we get to celebrate in 2022. If you have been involved in a motor vehicle crash and you are hurt, you will most likely need an attorney. We are available for confidential consultations seven days a week