Dangers of Night-Driving During the Holidays
If you're like most Americans, you'll be joining your friends or family in a string of holiday get-togethers during the final month of the year. Whether you're driving down the road to your friend's Christmas sweater party or traveling hundreds of miles to spend time with relatives, you'll be traveling alongside people who are also on their way to and from holiday parties.
This increase in traffic (and parties) presents risks to all motorists, particularly at night. There are several reasons why nighttime driving is more dangerous, but by knowing these risks and adjusting our driving habits accordingly, we might all be better equipped to make our holiday drives safer.
What are the Risks of Nighttime Driving During the Holidays?
Environmental factors - Some of the nighttime driving dangers are due to low visibility. This is especially true in rural areas or on poorly lit roadways. For people with poor vision or certain eye conditions, such as an astigmatism, low visibility is an even greater concern.
Animals are more likely to cross roads at night, and the region you live in determines the specific risks you face on the road. For example, I-40 in Arizona is notoriously dangerous when it comes to elk crossing the road. Arizona has taken steps to make roads safer for motorists, not just on I-40 but in other parts of the state, too. The state went as far as building a multi-million dollar overpass in the Sonoran Desert to protect motorists and wildlife, such as deer, bighorn sheep, javelinas and tortoises. It's one of many safe passageways built by Arizona to protect drivers.
In other parts of the country, winter weather like snow and ice also make roadways more dangerous for holiday travelers. Researchers have found that crashes increase by 19 percent in winter weather. Other studies have found that more than 800 people die every year in winter weather-related crashes.
Driver error - Human error is the leading cause of all crashes, accounting for around 90 percent of all crashes on our roads. The holiday season might bring out some of our worst tendencies as drivers. For example, drowsy driving is much more likely for those driving at night, especially for people traveling for long stretches of time.
Drunk driving spikes during the period from Thanksgiving to New Year's Day. Of all the days of the year, New Year's Day has the highest number of drunk driving-related deaths.
How to Decrease the Risk of Being Involved in a Crash
Most importantly, plan your drives with safety in mind. If possible, drive during daylight hours and be mindful of areas that are more likely to host wildlife. Make sure your vehicle is winterized and stocked with some emergency items, including:
- A first-aid kit
- Jumper cables
- An ice scraper
- Road flares
- A flashlight
- A multi-purpose tool
- Cold-weather clothing
- Food and water.
If you plan on attending gatherings where you'll be drinking, make plans to avoid driving while intoxicated. Arrange a designated driver or call a rideshare or taxi for transportation. If hosting a party, provide non-alcoholic beverages for attendees, offer a place to sleep to those who have been drinking, or arrange for transportation ahead of time.
When Your Crash is Caused by Another Driver
While we have control over our own actions behind the wheel, we are also dependent on other drivers to do the same. If you are involved in a crash with a negligent driver, follow the same protocol as you would in any other type of crash.
- Make sure any injured motorists receive medical attention.
- Gather the other driver's information (name, contact number and insurance).
- Call the police and get a copy of the police report when it becomes available.
- Ask any witnesses for their contact information.
- If possible, take pictures of the scene of the crash.
- Keep copies of all bills you incur relating to the crash.
- Contact a personal injury attorney for legal assistance.
A car accident attorney will know how to deal with insurance companies to get you the compensation you need to cover the costs you face after a crash. If you don't already have an attorney that you can call in the event of an emergency, consider keeping a list of numbers available so you can contact them after a crash.
The holidays offer us the chance to spend time with loved ones, and no one wants the season to be ruined by a vehicle accident. In some cases, we can plan to avoid driving at night but, for many of us, nighttime driving will be a necessity. Plan wisely this holiday season and you will greatly reduce your chances of being involved in a nighttime crash.