The holidays are upon us, and along with holiday cheer comes an increased risk of car accidents on our roadways. At this time more than ever, the importance of remaining diligent on our roadways is paramount, as the combination of factors unique to the holiday season can lead to a dangerous situation behind the wheel.
Florida is being hit hard by an increase in traffic accident deaths. According to the National Safety Council, car accident deaths were up 9% from 2015, and 18% from 2014. So even when accounting for year-round driving, the rate of deadly accidents is increasing. Given Florida’s record pace for accident deaths in 2016, there is sadly no reason to think the rate will drop as the holiday season approaches.
DUI During the Holidays
The problem with impaired drivers being on our roadways increases during the holidays. Holidays mean holiday parties, where the alcohol may flow freely and where there may not be a support system to drive an intoxicated employee home or encourage him or her to get a taxi. In fact, one of the deadliest holidays for drunk driving deaths is the Fourth of July because it involves high amounts of alcohol and driving late at night.
Although we think that people have a general awareness of DUI and its dangers, according to MADD, as of 2015, there were 113,076 three-time DUI law offenders, and 11,681 five-time offenders. So clearly, this is still a problem. In 2015, the death rate from DUIs actually increased by 14.8%.
In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is so confident that accidents increase during the holidays, they actually provide yearly predictions of the number of car accidents even before the holiday season begins. According to the NHTSA, the DUI incident rate is at its highest between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve.
Citing to the U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), the NHTSA has noted that 40% of car accident deaths between Christmas and New Year’s involve alcohol. That’s a 12% increase over the rest of the year.
More Young Drivers on Our Roads
Holidays also mean no school, and with teenagers who may have access to both cars and alcohol, the mix between parties, boredom, and extra free time, can all lead to not just intoxicated drivers, but inexperienced, intoxicated drivers.
In fact, anytime there are more, younger drivers on the road, the chances for fatal accidents increase. Even during the summer, when school age drivers are home, the accident rate tends to increase. The NHTSA calls the period between memorial day and labor day the 100 deadliest days of the year on roadways. Much like that time of year, during the holidays, younger drivers are on the roadways, with free time on their hands.
It is now estimated that one in four accidents is attributable to text messaging on cell phones.
Already, our roadways are plagued with drivers distracted by cell phones, infotainment systems, and the electronics that are continually being put into newer model cars. Now, couple that with drivers trying to navigate crowded parking lots, who are rushing to buy last minute gifts, or are trying to get to the store on time, and the chances of an accident increase significantly.
Our area is one that is always a beacon for tourists escaping the cold. That is no more pronounced than during the holiday season, when we see not only seasonal tourists, but visiting relatives and family as well.
In many cases, these visitors may be unfamiliar with our roadways and may make last minute lane changes, or drive unlawfully fast or slow. They may be unfamiliar with the rental cars that they are in. They may be distracted, looking at maps or GPS systems, instead of the road. These are, of course, all things that even local drivers engage in, but visitors may be especially prone to these kinds of distractions and road habits.
As if this were not bad enough, couple it with the Daylight Savings time change, which now puts much of after-work, rush hour driving in the dark. Visibility may be poor, and visitors confused by roadways or with directions, may be more so in the cover of darkness.
Remember that holiday roadway danger is not limited to drivers; in cities or areas with high pedestrian traffic, those who are walking can face danger, as well. Some studies have even shown that New Year’s Day is the deadliest day of the year for pedestrians—more so than even Halloween. This is likely a direct result of the alcohol involved in the New Year’s Day holiday, and the late night driving by partygoers on their way home.
Be safe on the road during the holiday season. If you are in a car accident during this hectic time of year, contact Brill & Rinaldi today about a free consultation to discuss your car accident case.