As we approach the Christmas, New Year’s, and other winter holidays, more people are hitting the road to see family and friends. While winter weather is always something to be concerned about, those of us involved in the safety field are also turning our focus to ways that motorists can try and reduce the chances of an empty spot at the holiday table.
This is where Operation Safe Holiday comes in.
It is a time of year when law enforcement and safety professionals do what they can to keep our roads safe for you and your loved ones.
Drive Sober or Have a Designated Driver
We want to have fun and enjoy ourselves, but depending on how you celebrate, that can come with some risks. The obvious one that comes to mind is impaired driving. It is challenging sometimes to find someone who has not been affected by an impaired driver.
We see crashes and fatalities increase between the weekend before Thanksgiving and the days after New Year’s. No one seems to be immune. We either know someone personally who died or was injured, or we have friends who have been personally impacted by the loss of a loved one. Or perhaps you yourself have chosen to get behind the wheel when you shouldn’t.
Always make sure there is a designated driver. That needs to be the person who has had nothing to drink, not the person who has had the least amount to drink. Or try something different and organize a party with mocktails – get inventive and maybe have a competition to see who can be the most creative with their drink!
And remember, impairment can also mean drugs – yes, the illegal ones, but also over-the-counter and prescription can lead to impairment. Too many of us ignore the labels on medicines warning about drowsiness. There are studies that have said that drowsy driving is no different than drunk driving based on how it affects your senses. If you have family or friends coming to visit, you may want to check your medicine cabinet and put medicines away from those who may be abusing drugs that have not been prescribed for them.
Wear Your Seatbelt
Sometimes it may sound like a broken record, but wearing your seatbelt is the first and easiest thing you can do to increase your chances of surviving a crash. You are more likely to survive if you remain inside your vehicle, properly restrained, meaning wearing your seatbelt, being 10 inches away from the steering wheel, having your mirrors adjusted correctly, and making sure every other passenger, from the youngest to the oldest, are properly restrained as well. If a passenger refuses to buckle up, you should refuse to drive them anywhere. Crashes happen when you least expect them, so better to be prepared.
Don't Be Aggressive
Aggressive driving and sometimes the resulting road rage (which is your emotional response to someone else’s driving behaviors) also increase around the holidays. Everyone is in a hurry to get somewhere. Speeds increase, along with tailgating, changing lanes without signaling, forcing merges onto the highway (did you know that motorists who are already on the highway are not required to move out of your way?), running red lights, and more put you and others at risk. Avoid making eye contact with someone who you believe is exhibiting dangerous behaviors and please don’t make or return gestures. It is simply not worth the risk. Just take a deep breath, get out of their way, and improve your chances of getting to your destination safely.
Driving behaviors are all about choices. You chose to drive impaired. You chose to not wear a seatbelt. You chose to speed or tailgate. No one is making you make those choices. And your choice may end up with yourself, your loved ones, or someone else’s family member not having the option to enjoy this time of year.
Learn more about safe driving on PennDOT's website: