Driving during the holidays

It’s hectic on the roads at Christmastime

Jens Nielsen | Driving With Jens

Life in general can be very stressful during the holidays. There’s lots going on. Shopping in crowded stores, working overtime and trying to make an appearance at holiday parties all contribute to more traffic on the roads and less time to fit everything in.

Driving while you’re distracted, tired or even slightly impaired is always dangerous. Add this to crazy weather and icy roads and it has the potential to end disastrously. In fact, December may just be the most dangerous month out there on the roads.

We all obviously want to fit everything in and return home to our families safe. So here are some tips to help insure that happens.

First, make sure your vehicle is properly serviced and your have your winter tires on, properly inflated and in good condition. Keep extra windshield washer fluid on hand. The weather lately has been quite warm and has made for dirty, slushy roads. Running out of windshield washer fluid and trying to drive with a dirty windshield is a crash waiting to happen.

Know that it is going to take much longer than usual to get to your destination. A trip to the store that normally takes half an hour will probably take an hour. The roads are very slippery and there are a lot more people on the road. People are all rushed and may not be driving as defensively as they should. Other drivers will be scared and driving slow and erratically. It’s going to take longer. Accepting this fact going in, will greatly reduce your stress.

Every single one of us can be susceptible to road rage. Try to be patient and courteous to everyone even if you don’t really think they deserve it. We all want to get home safe. A lot of people wait unit the last minute to do their Christmas shopping. If you start early before the crowds you can avoid the extra congestion on the roads and the stress that goes with it. Getting out shopping earlier in the day if you can helps as there is normally less traffic.

Be super conscious to avoid distracted driving. Avoid using handheld devices of any kind. Talking or texting while driving greatly increases your chances of crashing. As tempting as it may be to use your cell phone, pull over and park to answer phone calls or texts or to check websites for store hours or sales.

Distracted driving also means anything that takes your full concentration off driving and the road. Financial stresses of the holidays, family disagreements and other distracting thoughts can greatly reduce your ability to focus on the road. It can be a challenge, but try to deliberately leave these thoughts outside your vehicle before getting in and driving. There are lots of Christmas decorations and lights at this time of year. Pull over and stop to safely view these.

Impaired driving seems to increase during the holidays. Every year it contributes to crashes and deaths that were avoidable. That’s why police will have an added focus on the issue during the holidays. There will be check stops. You can count on it. Lots of Christmas parties, family get-togethers, thank you gift baskets with liquor and meetings with friends and co-workers for Christmas socials — all typically increase your chances of drinking and then driving. The safest number of drinks before driving is none. Please consider substituting soft drinks or coffee if you’re going to be driving. Consider a designated driver. Impaired driving also includes the use of drugs.

The holidays have a way of stealing your sleep. Long hours of overtime, trying to fit in extra shopping, and trying to make it to all the events going on can cut in to your normal sleep routine. Driving while tired is often overlooked as an issue. However according to a study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety: “People who slept six to seven hours a night are twice as likely to be involved in a crash as those sleeping eight hours or more, while people sleeping less than five hours increased their risk four to five times.”

It’s especially important to talk about these issues with new teenage drivers who may be driving during the holidays for the first time. Taking some time as a family to discuss the issues around holiday driving and making a pledge to one another to avoid these perils will help bring everyone home safe.

Put on your favorite Christmas music and enjoy driving during the holiday season safely.

Catch Driving With Jens on CHON FM Thursdays at 8:15. If you have any questions or comments you can reach out to Jens Nielsen at drivingwithjens@gmail.com, Facebook or Twitter: @drivingwithjens.

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