Like we mentioned in a previous blog, the holidays have a dark edge to them. Rising traffic fatalities during the winter months demands that we be even more vigilant on the road. Here are five driving hazards that get more dangerous during the holidays.
Tired or drowsy driving is a cause behind a fifth of all fatal car accidents. It’s clear why: the impact of tired driving is comparable to drinking and driving. One study found that driving after being awake for 18 hours affected performance the same as having a blood alcohol level of .05%.
The effect of fatigue is only going to get worse—Americans are getting less sleep than ever. While Daylight Savings ends in the fall, heightened drinking and the social demands of the holidays means people are getting a lot less sleep in general. Holiday stress lowers the quality of our sleep, compounding the effects of fatigue.
This year, the world learned that Texas winters are a force to be reckoned with. Sudden freezing temperatures and heavy rainfall all but guarantee icy roads during the holiday months. In February of this year, icy roads caused a massive pileup on I-35. That’s just one example of how winter weather can lead to a catastrophic car accident.
Alcohol use causes a third of all fatal vehicle accidents. Not only does society as a whole drink more during the holidays, time off work and more social gatherings means that more people are drinking at the same time. The rising number of people on the road on holiday weekends increases the odds that a drunk driver will cause irreparable harm.
4. Vehicle Maintenance
Vehicle maintenance is a year-round issue—federal statistics show that 12% of all accidents are caused by mechanical defects. However, inclement weather can heighten the risk of defects, particularly tire problems. Old tires with low tread are more likely to cause a loss of control in icy or rainy conditions.
The holidays can indirectly affect your vehicle’s condition as well. Salting the road to prevent ice can also corrode the underside of your car. The corrosion heightens the chance of a serious malfunction on the road.
A 2006 study from Greenberg Quinlan Rosner found that people in the U.S. are likely to suffer from extra stress during the holidays due to financial pressures, time pressures, workplace issues, and high-running emotions. Stress makes it more likely for drivers to engage in aggressive or risky driving behaviors, which increases the likelihood of a crash.
In fact, stressed drivers are more likely to drive drunk, which ties back to item #3.
Thankfully, all of these effects have solutions. As long as we’re vigilant and take care of ourselves, we’ll make it less likely to get into an accident this holiday season.