With the holiday season often comes road trips to visit family or fun vacations to snowy winter wonderlands! As exciting as holiday trips can be, they also mean much more traffic and increasingly hazardous road conditions.
In fact, November and December are the second most dangerous times of year to drive - right behind summer vacation in July and August. There are several reasons that the holidays are a dangerous time to drive: It gets dark out early, there are many more drivers on the road due to holiday travel and shopping traffic, and there are more impaired drivers on the roads leaving Christmas and office parties.
Staying vigilant and practicing defensive driving will go a long way towards ensuring that you have a healthy, accident-free holiday!
Preparing for the Long Haul
Road trips create memories that last a lifetime. You can help guarantee those memories remain good ones with these simple steps:
- Have your car checked over by your mechanic before you set out. Tell your auto shop how far you intend to drive your car, and the conditions you expect to drive in. They can verify your vehicle will make the trip safely.
- Ensure your tires have adequate tread and are properly inflated.
- Do not drive with less than half a tank of fuel.
- Stay up-to-date on the weather forecast. Should the weather look especially bad, do not be afraid to cancel or delay your trip. It is far better to miss a day of vacation than to spend it stuck in the snow, or worse, the hospital.
- Pull over and rest if you are feeling fatigued. A study by the Nation Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that over a 4 year period, 72,000 crashes were attributed to driver fatigue. Plan your trip so you share driving responsibility and take regular breaks.
- Inform friends or family where you are headed. This includes your expected route, your anticipated leaving time, and your estimated time of arrival at your destination.
Driving in Ice and Snow
If you’re leaving the state of Florida for a trip up North, there is nothing quite so enchanting as a snowy day! Nothing deflates that magical feeling like a car accident on an icy road, however. Avoid incidents with a few precautions:
- Stay home if the weather forecast calls for too much snow or slushy, icy conditions. Avoiding dangerous streets ensures you remain safe.
- Should you venture out, drive slowly to account for decreased traction.
- Cruise control can be dangerous on snowy or icy roads. Control your speed manually so you can react to adverse conditions.
- When you accelerate and decelerate, do so slowly and with care. Stopping and starting require more time in slick conditions. Be patient and do not hurry!
- Never stop on a hill. You can slide backwards. Gain your inertia on a flatter surface before headed up a slope. By extension, do not attempt to power your way up hills. Decreased traction can turn this into a tragedy.
- Keep your car stocked with cold-weather gear. This includes a blanket, warm clothing, food and water, a flashlight, a windshield scraper for your windows, and spare doses of essential medications.
General Road Safety
Not all traffic accidents during the holidays are weather-related. Prevent other types accidents with these handy tips:
- We all love a healthy dose of holiday merriment. That being said, if your night includes drinking, always make sure you have a plan to get home. Designate a driver or call a transportation service, like Uber or Lyft, or a taxi - never drive if you are impaired.
- Drive defensively. Mind your speed, give yourself plenty of time and distance to react, and if someone is driving aggressively, don’t go on the offense. Put the safety of your passengers and fellow drivers first, and let them pass.
- Eliminate distractions. Sending or reading a text can take your eyes off the road for 4-5 seconds, if not longer. At 55 mph, that’s enough time for you to travel nearly the entire length of a football field. If you absolutely must use your phone, pull over to the side of the road or the nearest rest stop. Never text while driving: For one thing, driving requires your full attention, and for another, it is now illegal to text while driving in the state of Florida.
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