The holidays are a wonderful time for families to come together, and scores of Americans hit the roads in December to visit their loved ones. But driving during the holidays can be dangerous because so many people are traveling. It is imperative for drivers to exercise extreme caution to ensure that everyone reaches their destinations safely. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen, and what is supposed to be a joyous time ends up as a tragic one for too many families, in Georgia and nationwide.
Seventeen people died in Georgia car crashes during the 102-hour Christmas period tracked by the State Patrol last year. Six of those fatalities were in the Atlanta metro area. Overall, authorities investigated 685 crashes with 300 injuries over the long Christmas weekend.
Last year’s Christmas traffic statistics are even more disturbing because they were five times greater than the previous year, when three people were killed in holiday crashes. Given that inclement weather has already snarled traffic across the nation in recent weeks, it is essential for those who are traveling by car to be prepared for any hazards that arise on heavily congested roads.
Here are some tips to keep in mind if you will be driving during Christmas and New Year’s:
- Prep your car for travel by checking the oil and topping off all fluids, including windshield washing fluid. Be sure that none of your lights are burned out.
- Make sure that your tires are properly inflated. Underinflated tires increase the risk of blowouts and can impede your ability to brake in emergency situations.
- Keep your cell phone charged in case of a problem.
- Let friends and family members know the route you will be taking.
- As always, allow yourself extra travel time. Speed is a factor in countless numbers of holiday crashes every year.
- Wear your seat belt. Buckling up is a key way to prevent serious injuries and deaths, yet it is so often overlooked by motorists. The good news is that Georgia was one of 16 states that reported seat belt use rates of 90 percent or higher to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in 2012. The bad news is that people from all across the country could be driving through the Peach State during the holidays, some from states where the seat belt use rate was as low as 66 percent.
- Do not drink and drive. Select a designated driver before attending a holiday function where you plan to drink, and hand over your keys.
- Have roadside assistance contact information readily available in case you run into problems on the road.
- Don’t drive drowsy. If you feel yourself getting sleepy after long hours on the road, stop to take a nap or switch drivers.
- Limit distractions, such as eating, drinking and talking on the phone while you are behind the wheel. Certainly don’t text. The Georgia Governor’s Office of Highway Safety reports that Georgia drivers rank high in the numbers who talk on cell phones while driving, and estimates suggest that the same is true for text messaging.
The American Automobile Association estimated that 1.24 million people in Georgia traveled 50 miles or more from home during the Thanksgiving holiday. Expect the Christmas holidays to be another period when many people are on the roads. Unfortunately, not all of them are sober. If your family has been injured in an accident caused by another driver, it’s a good idea to speak with a knowledgeable Georgia personal injury attorney to understand your legal options.
Before you get behind the wheel, make a pledge to be especially careful on the roads so that your visit with relatives is accident-free. Happy holidays!