Arrive Home Safely this Holiday Season
December 02, 2022 12:05 PM
As we approach the holiday season, many people are hitting the road to see family and friends. There are a lot of ways you can reduce the chances of becoming a crash statistic and ensure the holidays are filled with (mostly) warm memories.
- Buckle up. Wearing your seatbelt improves your chances of surviving a crash by up to 60 percent. Seatbelts should be worn any time you get behind the wheel – even if it’s for short trip. Did you know that three out of four crashes occur within 25 miles of home? Likewise, make sure each and every passenger in your vehicle is properly restrained, including children in the appropriate safety seat.
- Chill out. There is a unique kind of stress that goes along with the holidays. Daylight hours are at a premium. Weather is unpredictable. Holiday traffic is a pain. Then we fret over gift buying, and pressure to be everywhere all at once. Stress builds up and can sometimes manifest itself on our highways. We become territorial in our wheeled fortresses and easily take offense at other drivers. One perceived act of rudeness can quickly escalate into full-blown road rage. Instigating or escalating aggression on the road is not worth it. Take a deep breath. Clear your mind of whatever is bugging you. Remember the other motorists you encounter are dealing with their own issues, too. A little bit of kindness and common courtesy can go a long way.
- Don’t drive impaired. For some people, the spirit of the holidays often is synonymous with holiday “spirits”. However, drinking and driving is a crime that causes unnecessary pain and suffering (during last year’s holiday travel period from the Wednesday before Thanksgiving to January 2, 2022, there were 1,276 impaired driving-related crashes resulting in 41 fatalities statewide). So is drugged driving, including the illegal variety, prescribed or over-the-counter medications. If whatever you take results in any type of impairment, do not get behind the wheel. Plan an alternative, such as appointing a designated driver, planning a sleepover so you can sober up, or calling for a ride. There is never a good excuse for driving impaired.
- Ease up on the accelerator. Aggressive driving (speeding, tailgating, unsafe passing, running red lights and disregarding stop signs, among other behaviors) is a leading cause of vehicle crashes, regardless of the time of year. Putting your life and the lives of your passengers and other motorists at risk isn’t worth the minute or two you might shave off your travel time. It’s better to get to your destination late than not get there at all.
- Plan ahead/be alert. Weather during the holiday season can be unpredictable. Clear skies can turn to whiteout conditions in a flash. A dry section of roadway can quickly become snow covered and slick. But a little planning can help reduce surprises on the roadway. Check 511PA or your weather app for weather information and road conditions. Increase travel times to your destinations if the forecast call for precipitation. If you encounter unexpected inclement weather, slow down, turn on your headlights (or four-way flashers, if needed), increase travel distance and be alert.
- Put down the phone. Contrary to what some people might think, putting your phone away will not kill you. Not putting it away while driving just might. It’s apparent that many motorists simply aren’t paying attention and smart phones are often the culprit. The text or phone call can wait. If you do need to respond to a text or call, find a safe place to pull off the road first. Remember, eyes on the road, hands on the wheel, your mind focused 100% on the act of driving.
- Be rested. Getting good sleep is a big factor in our overall health and well-being. It also reduces the chance of falling asleep at the wheel. Most adults need 7-9 hours of sleep to maintain proper alertness during the day. Avoid alcohol or sedating medications when driving. If traveling long distances, have a companion to help with the driving. Plan rest stops every 100 miles or two hours behind the wheel.
Make safe driving a priority, regardless of the time of year.