With Thanksgiving happening next week, the busy holiday season has begun. Holidays throughout the year involve increased travel, including by car. Many of these holidays also bring about a spike in motor vehicle accidents, and there are several factors which may influence the rise in crashes:
Increased Travel and Traffic on Highways
AAA estimates 51 million Americans will travel for Thanksgiving this year.1 This is the highest travel volume for the holiday since 2005, and a 3.3 percent increase over 2016. Eighty-nine percent of all Thanksgiving travelers are planning a road trip this year. AAA says that's 45.5 million people planning a holiday road trip.
With 89 percent of Thanksgiving travelers driving to their destination, you can expect heavy highway volume. One result of increased volume is increased accident risk.
Increased Congestion in Cities and Towns
The AAA report estimates that cities may see increased congestion over the Thanksgiving weekend, which is defined as Wednesday, November 22 to Sunday, November 26. In the busiest cities, travel times could increase three-fold compared to optimal travel times.
Part of the issue is that normal commuter and local traffic will combine with road trip traffic. For example, on Wednesday evening cities could see a combination of people driving home from work and people trying to get out of town after work.
For many Americans, holiday celebrations involve not only sharing a meal with loved ones but sharing festive alcoholic spirits. Statistics show that the entire weekend is very dangerous because of drunk driving, and the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving day is particularly hazardous.
Tragically, 29 people per day die in a crash involving alcohol impairment, which equates to one person killed every 50 minutes.2 Many of these crashes occur late at night, but drunk driving is a problem all hours of the day and night. Do your part to prevent these crashes. Take a ride-share, taxi or public transportation if you've been drinking.
Distracted driving is another extremely hazardous driving behavior. Though there aren't specific statistics showing an increase in distracted driving over the holidays, they remain an important opportunity to remind loved ones of the risks.
Running late for Thanksgiving dinner? Coordinating plans with loved ones for Christmas? Deciding where to meet friends for New Year's Eve? These are all things that tempt people to text while driving. But it's not worth it. The hazards of taking your eyes, mind and hands away from the task of driving are too great. If you must communicate, find a safe opportunity to pull off the road into a parking lot or otherwise out of the stream of traffic. Doing so could prevent a serious accident caused by distraction.
How You Can Reduce Your Risk of a Crash
As motorists, we cannot control most things that happen on the road. But there are things under our control, and we can and should manage them in order to do what we can to reduce our crash risk:
- Maintain your vehicle. Properly working brakes, wipers blades and mechanical systems can only be a good thing. When your vehicle is in a state of disrepair, you may not be able to brake in time for an unexpected stop, or your car may stall on the road. You won't be able to see well if it rains and your wiper blades are old. Tires are another really important safety feature. If it's time to replace, balance, rotate or align your tires, you should do so before your road trip.
- Put your phone away. Put your phone out of sight, out of mind while you are driving. Make sure it is silenced so you aren't tempted by its various rings and alerts. At 55 mph, the 5 seconds it takes to send or read a text is equivalent to driving the length of a football field with your eyes closed.3
- Never drive inebriated. Thanksgiving is one of the most dangerous holidays for drunk driving. The Thanksgiving weekend in 2014 had the most motor vehicle deaths of all other holidays that year, with 403 fatalities.4 Inebriation is a common contributing factor in many fatal accidents. Please remember not to drive after drinking, and try to avoid the roads at night when drunk driving is more prevalent.
- Don't drive hung over either. Had a night of heavy drinking? Don't drive until you've had adequate time to sleep and fully recover. Driving hung over can be dangerous just like drunk driving is. After heavy drinking, even after you've slept several hours, if you get behind the wheel your reaction time will be slower. Your judgment may also be impaired and you will be more likely to make errors.
- Allow yourself as much time as humanly possible. We've all seen those drivers on the road speeding and weaving in and out of lanes, seemingly trying to game the traffic so that they can arrive at their destination earlier than the rest of us. Speeding is one of the most deadly driving behaviors. It is involved in about one-third of all motor vehicle deaths.5 Feeling rushed over the holidays is common, and although you can't control the behavior of other drivers, you can do your part by not speeding. Traffic and running late often drives the urge to speed. Do what you can to build enough time into your road trip so that you don't feel rushed. And remember that patience and taking a deep breath can go a long way in preventing a crash.
- Be aware of nighttime driving challenges. The fall and winter mean fewer hours of daylight across the country. Nighttime driving poses its own hazards. It's harder to see, your visibility is reduced and it may make you feel drowsy. Be aware of these hazards and don't push yourself to drive if you feel tired.
- Mentally prepare for congested roads. Anger and impatience are often the root of aggressive and reckless driving behavior. A major source of frustration is of course traffic congestion. We may all feel a little less frustrated if we know what we're getting into.
What to do if a Crash Occurs
It always helps to prepare for the unexpected. In the event you are involved in an auto accident during holiday travel, do you know what to do? Here are a few tips:
- Call police if the accident seems serious to you and if anyone was injured
- Wait for police to arrive before leaving
- Seek emergency medical attention if you need it
- Exchange information with the other driver, including insurance policy number and insurance provider, contact information, license plate numbers, makes and models of vehicles, and contact information of any witnesses
- Schedule an appointment with your doctor
- Call our attorneys
Our experienced accident lawyers will listen to the details of your situation and determine if you have a claim to pursue compensation.
Call Now for a Consultation
To find out if you have a case, please call Copple, Rockey, McKeever & Schlecht at 402-371-4300. Our experienced Omaha, Lincoln and Norfolk attorneys will make sure you know all of your options for what to do next.