Christmas Crashes: Here’s How to Stay Safe
During the Christmas holidays, an average of 343 people are killed in car crashes each year. The majority of fatal crashes are caused by driver errors and negligent behaviors that endanger other people on the road.
‘Tis the Season for Traffic Accidents
Christmas is a joyous season when people spend time with family and friends, decorate the Christmas tree, string festive holiday lights, and cook a decadent holiday dinner. Whether traveling across the country or just a few blocks away during the holidays, America’s roads and highways are filled with cars going somewhere. Unfortunately, heavy traffic and congestion take a big toll on traffic accidents, often resulting in severe injuries and deaths.
National traffic reports show a significant rise in car accidents each year, starting around December 20th and running through New Year’s Day. The leading cause of accidents during the holiday season are dangerous and negligent driving behaviors that put other drivers and pedestrians at risk. The majority of Christmas car crashes are caused by the following conditions:
- Sudden lane changes
- Weaving in and out of lanes
- Ignoring traffic signals
- Impaired driving
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that one in three drivers involved in Christmas car crashes is impaired. Some are impaired by fatigue or drowsy driving, but most are impaired by drugs or alcohol, with a blood alcohol level well above legal limits of .08 BAC. On average, 51% of drivers pulled over by law enforcement for drunk driving admit to binge drinking at a holiday party or special event.
For many people, the Christmas season includes office parties, celebrating with friends, and gathering at a favorite restaurant or bar. For some, these holiday celebrations include indulging in a drink or two to toast the season. For others, it is an open invitation to binge drink or drink to excess until severely intoxicated.
According to NHTSA, drunk driving fatalities increase by 41% on the days surrounding Christmas Day, and 58% on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. In Indiana, many car crashes caused by drunk drivers lead to personal injury claims during days close to Christmas and New Year’s.
Preventing Holiday Car Crashes
The holiday season presents driving dangers that may cause serious injuries, even deaths. Since it is impossible to control the actions of other drivers on the road, safety steps must be taken independently to prevent holiday car crashes that may have fatal consequences.
Planning Travel Time Wisely
When planning to travel by car, travelers should try to avoid the most dangerous travel times, which are when roads are congested. Planning ahead with a convenient departure time and an arrival time for the destination is key. Waiting until the last minute to load the car or leave home creates anxiety and stress on the road, which may increase when traveling with children and pets. If traveling with young children and pets, taking toys or games to keep them occupied in the car and transporting pets in crates can reduce distractions.
Staying Aware of Drunk Drivers
In 2018, 37% of Christmas traffic fatalities were caused by drunk drivers. If traveling close to Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, or New Year’s Day, travelers should be prepared for more drunk drivers on the road. When driving at night or during peak hours for drunk driving, individuals should watch for drivers who are driving erratically, speeding or driving too slow, struggling to stay in a lane, or braking excessively. These are common signs of drunk driving. If confronted or hit by a drunk driver, a victim should call 911 to report the driver, giving the operator the location, description of the vehicle, and license plate number if possible.
Seat belts are standard equipment now in all new vehicles and most older vehicles, but many people still do not buckle up. NHTSA safety studies show that only 78% of adult passengers in the backseat use seat belts, compared to 87% in the front seat. NHTSA accident reports show that in fatal vehicle crashes, only 60% of back seat occupants were wearing seat belts, and only 74% of front-seat occupants were buckled up. Indiana personal injury lawyers commonly see severe injuries and fatalities when passengers are not wearing seat belts.
Being a Good Host
When planning to host a party or family gathering during the Christmas holidays, a person should provide ample food and non-alcoholic beverages for his or her guests. If serving alcohol, hosts should be prepared to help guests with a taxi or rideshare service for a safe ride home. If family members are visiting from out of town, putting them up for the night if they have been drinking alcohol is wise.