The holiday seasons are frequently seen as some of the best times of the year. We’re able to spend quality time with family and friends, indulge in fantastic holiday feasts, and exchange gifts with those we treasure the most. However, the logistics of holiday planning and travel arrangements can be quite stressful. Even the most meticulous travel plans can fall through unexpectedly due to impassable roads, delayed flights, or dangerous weather. In fact, the days leading up to, including, and following holidays tend to have some of the highest rates of car crashes throughout the year.
To help you enjoy safe travels throughout your festivities in 2023, we put together this comprehensive article on holiday-related traffic accidents. We discuss the causes of holiday-related collisions, how to practice safe driving during high-traffic seasons, and what to do if you experience a collision.
Why Do Car Accidents Occur During the Holidays?
A number of factors make the holiday season particularly dangerous for even the safest of drivers. Oftentimes, it’s not the actions of anyone in your car that you need to be worried about, but the decisions of other drivers on the road that may put you or your loved ones at risk. Some of the most common causes of holiday-related collisions include:
- Impaired drivers: During the holidays, many people visit local bars or throw parties that include alcohol. This unfortunately leads to an increase in the number of drunk or impaired drivers on the road. Even if a driver does not believe that they are too impaired to drive, their reactions and judgment may be compromised, which can easily lead to a crash. A DUI conviction can result in both legal and civil penalties, so it’s important to always have a plan in place to get home safely at the end of the night.
- More cars on the road: As people rush to get to their holiday destination, there is an inevitable increase in the number of vehicles on the road. This can lead to heavier traffic than usual, which creates a heightened risk of collisions. Although sitting in traffic can be frustrating, it’s important to stay calm and practice defensive driving to lower one’s chance of getting into a crash.
- Drivers on unfamiliar roads: It can be difficult to navigate highways or urban areas that you’ve never driven in before. Lost or confused drivers may behave erratically, leading to an avoidable collision. Especially during the holiday season, try to be mindful of visiting drivers and make sure there is enough space between your vehicle and the cars around you to take action to avoid a wreck, if needed.
- Fatigued drivers: The holiday season can be exhausting. Between traveling, shopping, decorating, cooking, and social events, there are countless tasks and events demanding our attention. Be sure to get adequate rest before hitting the road, as fatigue can slow down your reaction time and increase the chances of a serious crash.
- Dangerous weather conditions: Many regions of the U.S. are known for their weather, particularly during the winter months. Snow, wind, ice, and regional weather patterns such as tropical storms can create treacherous road conditions, particularly for out-of-state drivers. If you find yourself dealing with inclement weather, it’s best to seek safety and shelter until the storm passes. Visiting family or getting to a party is not worth risking your life over.
- Poorly maintained or dangerous roads: It is an unfortunate fact that some roads in the U.S. are dangerous due to the way they were designed or maintained. Blind curves, uneven road surfaces, sharp turns, poorly marked intersections, and unreasonably dark stretches of roadway can directly lead to car crashes.
How to Avoid Holiday-Related Car Accidents
In some cases, even the most cautious and careful of drivers may find themselves unable to avoid a collision. Most drivers in the U.S. can unfortunately expect to experience at least one car crash at some point in their life. However, by practicing defensive driving, maintaining your vehicle properly, and planning your trips well in advance, you reduce your risk significantly. To protect yourself and your loved ones, you should always:
- Check your tire pressure and tread depth before going on a road trip
- Avoid driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, including prescription medication that may negatively impact your ability to manage your car
- Wear a seatbelt properly and ensure that all passengers are correctly buckled up
- Follow posted speed limits
- Practice defensive driving by maintaining awareness of your surrounding and proactively taking action to avoid hazards before they pose a risk to you and your vehicle
- Plan your trips well in advance, so you know which highways and streets you need to take to get to your destination
- Have a back-up plan ready, in the event you encounter dangerous weather or are unable to safely continue driving
What to Do if You’re in a Crash
If you do experience a car accident during your holiday travels, do your best to remain calm. In the immediate aftermath of the collision, check yourself and your passengers for any visible injuries. Call 911, so that first responders and law enforcement can respond to the scene of the accident. Be sure to request a copy of the police accident report, if law enforcement does respond to the incident.
While you’re at the scene of the crash, it’s important to exchange contact information with the other driver(s) that were involved in the collision. You should also take down the information of any witnesses that were present, as their testimony may help clarify who or what caused the wreck. After you and your passengers have gotten to a safe location, notify your insurance company that an accident occurred. Do not accept blame for the crash, as there may be factors outside of your control that played a role in the collision.
Even if you feel perfectly fine in the hours following your accident, be sure to see a doctor as soon as possible. It’s possible that you may have suffered internal injuries that will take days to manifest obvious symptoms of pain or discomfort. Visiting a doctor will help you get the proper treatment for any wounds you suffered. After verifying that you are not at immediate risk from injuries sustained in the crash, call a local car accident attorney. They will be able to explain your legal options and help you pursue the best course of action for your unique situation.