Why Do Car Accidents Increase Around the Holidays?

First off…do they really?

Most emphatically yes. Although the numbers vary widely from year to year, car accidents do generally increase during the holidays. One traffic data study found that more accidents occur during the days surrounding Christmas than over Thanksgiving, and even New Year’s Eve. The four deadliest traffic fatality days of the year in the United States include December 23rd and 24th (if you’re curious, the other two are July 3rd and 4th).

So, why does it happen? There are several reasons.

More cars on the road = more accidents

This one is basic math. With more cars on the road, there are more chances for those cars to interact with each other in negative ways. Not surprisingly, December 23rd and 24th are the worst days to travel, and it doesn’t particularly matter what time of day you hit the road. Early or late, gridlock, and potential accidents, are always possibilities.

Too much holiday cheer

As you gather with friends and family and raise a glass to celebrate the season, consider this: it’s been estimated that 40% of holiday road fatalities are the direct result of alcohol impairment. Drunk driving is a problem at any time of the year, but it’s particularly prevalent during the holiday season. From work functions to parties with friends to family get-togethers, there are just so many opportunities to overindulge.

‘Tis the season to be stressed

Yes, the holidays can be a joyful time, but for many people that joy is tempered by overwhelming stress. Strained finances, family drama, running all over town shopping, not enough time to get done what needs to be done—the list goes on and on. And stress, with the mental and physical effects that often accompanies it, can lead to distracted driving. Distracted driving is often every bit as dangerous as drunk driving.

Fatigue can kill

All that celebrating can be downright exhausting. According to the National Safety Council, you’re three times more likely to be involved in an auto accident when driving while fatigued. If you’re tired, have a cup of coffee. Even better, drive with a partner so you can switch on and off.

Keep an eye on the sky

The weather, particularly here in Northeast Ohio, can be treacherous in December. Pay attention to weather forecasts, both for where you are and where you’re going. It can be sunny and 50° in Westlake, but blizzarding in the snowbelt. Don’t be afraid to change travel plans to accommodate inclement weather. Better safe than snowed under.

Tips for staying safe

  • Christmas Day itself is actually the safest day to travel, with fewer cars on the road.
  • This is a no-brainer, but don’t drink and drive. If traveling in a group, have a designated driver.
  • If you’re over-tired, over-stressed, or just plain overwhelmed, stay off the road.
  • Know the weather forecast, and plan accordingly.
  • This goes hand-in-hand with the above tip—be sure your vehicle is safe, and well-equipped for winter driving conditions, including an emergency car kit.
  • Slow down. Give yourself plenty of time to get where you’re going.

If you’re involved in a car accident over the holidays, learn about how we can help.

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