How To Drive Safely This Holiday Season

For many people, Thanksgiving and Christmastime are all about being with family and taking in festive activities around town. It seems as though everywhere you go, stores are crowded, more people are on the streets and life gets a little more hectic and busy. The Holiday season is one of the most common times of the year to travel, so it's no wonder accidents increase. If you plan on leaving town, or if you know you'll be out and about more often than usual, you need to pay attention to some safe driving tips for the holiday season.

More Traffic Everywhere

As the Holiday season approaches, you’re not the only one gearing up for shopping. There is also no shortage of festivals, performances, concerts, and other showcases that draw a lot of attention. Your neck of the woods may have heavy traffic at certain times of the day, but between Thanksgiving and Christmas, the highways and roads may be busy all the time.

The Weather Changes

If you live in certain parts of the country, you might not have to contend with cold temperatures and snowfall. For many people, however, wintry weather is a harsh reality. Snow and ice can complicate matters for drivers, especially for people who may be visiting from places where they aren’t accustomed to these challenges.

The Mad Rush

Face it, as the calendar gets closer to Christmas, people, in general, tend to stress out and lose some patience. People may drive faster or more aggressively to get to the store before it closes or to take advantage of a big sale. Long lines, crowded shopping centers, and mounting credit card bills may elevate a person’s blood pressure, leading to less courteous driving or even road rage.

How to Stay Safe During the Holidays

1. Make Some Plans

When it comes to holiday driving, few things are more important than careful planning. Mapping out daily or weekly travel can alleviate anxiety, increase your efficiency and keep you safer.

When possible, combine multiple trips into one. Instead of going Christmas shopping one day and visiting grandma the next, consider doing one right after the other. You should also check out the weather forecast in advance. Of course, patterns change, and what you see on the news or online isn’t always accurate. However, keeping an eye on things should give you a good idea of what to expect. If you know a massive snowstorm is coming tomorrow, try to adjust your plans accordingly. It may even help to grab a calendar and jot down all the activities you hope to do in the coming weeks. This can reduce your stress level and help you choose the least busy times to go.

2. Check Your Vehicle

It’s critical to maintain your car throughout the year, but you should pay particular attention during the Holidays. Rough winter weather isn’t just difficult for you; it’s hard on your car as well. Here’s a quick winter maintenance checklist:

  • Make sure you’re up to date on oil changes, transmission and other fluid levels.
  • Check the battery to ensure it’s going to get you through the winter.
  • Inspect the tires for good tread. You may have to rotate them or even put on a set of winter tires before the snow starts to fall.
  • It’s also a wise idea to have an emergency kit in your vehicle in case you get stranded. You can include first aid supplies, a flashlight, a blanket, water and snacks.
  • Remember to keep an ice scraper in your vehicle too.

3. Navigating the Snow

Many people struggle to know how to drive safely in snow. Even drivers who see it every year tend to forget that it requires more attention and some careful adjustments to navigate without problems.

The first thing you need to remember in the snow is to slow down. When snow is sticking to the ground, your chances of skidding out of control increase considerably if you are driving fast. Under these conditions, drive a few miles under the speed limit.

Along with this, it’s crucial to keep a safe distance between you and the car in front of you. It’ll take your car much longer to come to a stop when there is snow and ice on the ground than when the roads or dry. As you approach stop signs and red lights, start to brake lightly much earlier than you normally would. Slamming on your brakes in the snow will often cause your vehicle to slide—possibly into another car.

4. Be Fresh

From late November through the New Year, parties, and other social gatherings can be a weekly event. Some of these events may go well into the night. If you know you have a lot of driving the next day, it may help to check out of the party a bit early and get some rest. Drowsy driving is dangerous, especially in bad weather and when more cars are on the road. Here are some other tips:

  • If you’re too tired to drive, ask someone else to take over.
  • Don’t go to late-night parties when you know you’ve got to be up early the next day.
  • Eat healthy meals to keep up your energy level.

5. Don’t Drive Under the Influence

This should be a given at any time of the year. However, people need more of a reminder during the holidays. At your parties, you may choose to drink, but you shouldn’t choose to drive home if you’ve been drinking. There’s no shame in asking someone to give you a lift or saying no to alcoholic beverages to be the designated driver for your group. In fact, being the DD may be greatly appreciated by others.

6. Stay off the Phone

Texting while driving is always the wrong choice. Mix in ice, snow, and more pedestrians and cars, and the results of this behavior could be disastrous. Send your message about starting the turkey or getting the right sweater size before you start your car.

You can’t control what other people do on the road this Holiday season, but you are responsible for your behavior and actions. By following these tips, you have a greater chance of staying safe this time of year and enjoying the fun and excitement that comes with it.

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