Holidays can pose significant risks for drivers and their passengers. Over the 2021 Labor Day weekend, for instance, the Missouri State Highway Patrol reported 351 car crashes, resulting in 103 injuries and seven deaths. The 108 DWI arrests and 71 drug arrests reported during this period likely contributed to those numbers.
No matter what major holiday may involve shopping ventures, parties, or extended road trips for you and your family, you need to understand the potential hazards these special periods present and how you can minimize the dangers to everyone involved. Consider the following important points about holiday accident injury risks.
More Traffic Means More Accident Injury Potential
Any major holiday that offers people significant time off can lead to increases in traffic congestion. Holidays that traditionally involve gift shopping, such as Christmas, add fuel to the traffic congestion fire by compelling individuals and families to clog major streets and parking lots in their efforts to find the perfect presents.
The COVID-19 pandemic may have also boosted traffic burdens related to major holidays. One survey found that 28 percent of participants surveyed have altered their travel plans in favor of more local travel, with 20 percent limiting their travel method to driving. These two factors have obvious implications for traffic density.
If you find yourself in a holiday traffic jam, take special precautions as a driver. Match your speed to surrounding traffic, watch adjacent lanes closely, and maintain reasonable stopping distances. Allow even more room for heavily loaded commercial trucks, which may have trouble braking quickly.
Holiday Celebrations Often Involve Alcohol
Many individuals who attend holiday parties (and don’t have to go to work the next morning) may overindulge in alcoholic beverages. These festive drinks, a staple at Fourth of July barbecues, Thanksgiving dinners, and Christmas parties, can impair judgment, coordination, and alertness in drivers.
Research data has identified the four most deadly holidays (in terms of alcohol-related deaths) as Independence Day, the New Year’s holiday period, Labor Day, and Memorial Day, followed by such less obvious contenders as Martin Luther King Day and Columbus Day. Missouri led one list for the most fatalities by state.
Even if you don’t drink or arrange for a designated driver during your holiday celebrations, keep in mind that the drivers around you may not have observed such preventative measures. Stay away from drivers who weave across lanes, accelerate or brake for no reason, or demonstrate other signs of impairment.
Extreme Weather Can Play a Role in Holiday Accidents
Holidays dot the calendar all year round, from the warm-weather revels of Memorial Day and Independence Day to the chillier celebrations that take place in November and December. As the weather grows more extreme in either direction, the risk of getting into an auto accident may rise.
Missouri sees more than its share of foul weather, some of which may cause difficulties for drivers. While ice, slush, and snow can easily cause vehicles to skid into each other, ordinary rain also causes Missouri car crashes and deaths by making streets slick and reducing visibility.
Hot weather can also contribute to auto accidents in a variety of ways. For example, a car that hasn’t received regular maintenance may experience a tire blowout that throws it out of control and into the path of another vehicle. Seasonal road construction, more motorcyclists on the road, and heat-induced road rage pose other risks.
Make sure you know how to drive safely in extreme holiday weather, even if this means taking a refresher course in defensive driving. Check your local media for the latest weather reports so you know what to expect for your shopping or road trip. Maintain your car to minimize the odds of a sudden, unexpected malfunction.
Holiday Stress, Fatigue, and Distractions Can Impair Drivers
Holidays don’t always serve as joyous occasions for everyone. The burdens of shopping for multiple gift recipients, planning holiday get-togethers or family reunions, and staying with relatives can add stress and strain to people’s lives. The resulting fatigue, irritability, and distractions can open the door for auto accidents.
While you can’t control the effects of stress, fatigue, and distraction of your fellow drivers, you can watch out for signs of aggressive or sloppy driving and give the vehicles involves a wide berth. You can also limit distractions in your vehicle by not eating, using your smartphone, or allowing horseplay among the kids in your vehicle.
Pay close attention to your own physical, mental, and emotional state during a stressful holiday season. If you don’t feel properly alert, calm, or refreshed, ask someone else to take the wheel in your place as you perform your holiday errands.
Despite your best efforts to safeguard your loved ones and yourself against holiday-related disasters, accidents can happen. If you sustained an accident injury due to someone else’s negligence, you may need to pursue your legal options for securing financial compensation. Contact Cantor Injury Law for a consultation.