This holiday season is a big deal, with many friends and family able to get together again. Eager travelers will be filling the nation’s roads on their way to their holiday destinations, which means that car accidents will be on the rise.
December has been designated National Impaired Driving Prevention Month since 1981. And since 2017, Texas has led the nation in fatal car accidents and wrong-way crashes. So, staying safe during Christmas and New Year’s travel is more important than ever.
Holiday Driving Statistics
Car travel has the highest fatality rate of any mode of transportation, especially when people are celebrating various holidays throughout the year. The National Safety Council (NSC) estimated last year that 384 people would die in car accidents in just four days, between December 31 and January 3. They also estimated that an average of 43,800 drivers and passengers would be injured during that same four-day period.
And when it comes to the nation’s deadliest highways, the latest rankings give Texas two in the top five, and both go directly through the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
I-20 was named the second-highest in U.S. fatalities; I-35 came in at number five. In 2019 alone, nearly 200 people lost their lives on I-35 – that’s more than 12 deaths every hundred miles.
Texas is also the fifth leading state in motor vehicle fatalities, specifically during the holidays. Much of that is due to drunk driving, which always increases during the celebratory season. In 2019, alcohol-related deaths made up 28 percent of overall traffic fatalities – that jumped to 36 percent during the New Year’s period. The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) says there are more than 750 drunk driving deaths each December.
Of course, drunk driving is not the only reason behind more car accidents during the holidays. In fact, it’s not even the #1 overall cause.
Distracted Driving Is Never Worth It
There are several reasons why driving a 4,000-plus pound vehicle can be dangerous, but by far, the biggest one is distracted driving.
Nearly one in five Texas car accidents are due to distracted driving. It’s the leading cause of car accidents nationwide, killing about eight people every day. And the first thing you think of when you hear the term distracted driving is, of course, your cell phone.
Seventy percent of U.S. drivers report using their phones while at the wheel, even though they are 2,300 percent more likely to cause a crash. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) equates sending or reading a text at 55 miles per hour to traveling an entire football field with your eyes closed.
You may not realize it, but anything you do in a car that takes your hands off the wheel or eyes off the road is distracted driving. Examples include:
- Drinking, eating and smoking
- Putting on makeup, brushing hair or changing clothes
- Looking for or reaching for something inside the car
- Adjusting your radio, GPS or temperature controls
- Interacting with pets or people inside the car
Regardless of what distracts your focus from the road, if you’re at fault in an accident, you’ll pay Texas’ highest violation fines, and your insurance rates could go up as much as $175 a year.
Another completely preventable cause of motor vehicle accidents is aggressive driving. One-third of all deadly car crashes are related to speeding, and most fatalities involve some form of reckless driving.
Other forms of aggressive driving include tailgating, ignoring traffic lights, refusing to let someone pass you, changing lanes suddenly or driving on the shoulder of the road. And “road rage,” taking your stress or anger out on other drivers, is another way for someone to get hurt.
Tips for Staying Safe on a Holiday Road Trip
Common sense, proper planning and self-awareness can go a long way when hitting the road during the holiday season.
If you can avoid driving in bad weather, you’ll save a lot of time and stress. Go to DriveTexas.org to get real-time information on weather and current road conditions before starting your trip. If particularly bad weather strikes on a holiday, wait until it’s safe to drive, or consider using Zoom or other video chat technology to bring the family together while keeping everyone safe.
Keep your car ready for any conditions by giving it a full tune-up. If you plan to travel to places with cold-weather conditions, you may need to consider winter tires or snow chains. You should also travel with an emergency roadside kit that includes a spare tire, wheel wrench and tripod jack, jumper cables, tool kit, flashlight and reflective triangles to make your vehicle more visible.
This may seem obvious but wear your seat belt. Many lives can be saved over the holidays just by wearing seat belts – which are shown to be at least 45 percent more effective in preventing crash fatalities among drivers and front-seat passengers.
Most importantly, make sure that you are never under the influence of alcohol or drugs when you drive. Champagne toasts and special holiday cocktails can be a fun addition to holiday parties, but it’s easy to underestimate their effect on you when it’s time to head home.
The NHTSA is partnering with law enforcement all over the country for their annual awareness campaigns on drinking and getting high while driving. Both are easy ways to get a DUI, and police will be extra alert for those impaired behind the wheels during the campaign’s run from December 18 to January 1.
Plan ahead so you can enjoy holiday parties without putting your life or the lives of others at risk. Arrange for a taxi or Uber ahead of time, or select a designated driver who will get everyone home. And don’t be afraid to take someone’s keys away if they’re impaired or call the police when you see someone driving erratically on the road. They might get angry, but you may have just saved their lives. And if you get in an accident and need legal assistance, you’ll be glad that you were sober.
Do I Need a Car Accident Lawyer?
You may not think to hire a lawyer during or shortly after the holidays, but it’s always a good idea to at least consult one after any kind of car accident, especially if the fault is unclear. You may be entitled to monetary damages if you can prove the other driver was responsible.
If you have a documented pre-existing injury or health condition, your insurance company will likely try to use it against you. Insurers assume you don’t know the law, which in Texas says that you are still eligible for compensation regardless of a previous injury. An experienced car accident attorney will be able to fight for this right against your insurance company. The same applies if your claim is denied or if you receive an insufficient settlement for car repairs and medical bills.
After a car accident, you could miss work, have to stay in the hospital, and have to find a new car, all while healing from your physical injuries. Competent car crash attorneys know the law and tricks of the auto insurance industry very well and can do the work while you focus on recovery.
The Cochran Firm Texas cares about your car accident case. Our personal injury lawyers specialize in getting car accident victims the highest possible compensation for their suffering at the hands of a negligent driver. Give us a call at 1-800-THE-FIRM (800-843-3476) or contact us online or via live chat, 24/7, for your free consultation.
At Cochran Texas, we understand that needing legal help can be scary. It doesn’t have to be. We are a trusted leader in the legal profession and in our community. We know you are more than a case number. We get to know you as a person. This allows us to offer a balanced and thoughtful approach to giving you the best possible legal representation. Our mission is to protect the legal rights of ALL people in our community. No matter your race, gender, background or income level you have a right to skilled legal help. Call us at 800-843-3476.