One of the major joys of the holiday season is the time spent with friends and family–and for most people in this country, heading home means hitting the road. Whether your travels this holiday season take you halfway across the country for Christmas morning with your extended family or just across town for a holiday party with friends, it’s critical to keep in mind some travel tips so you can travel safely at this time of year.

The American Automobile Association estimates that 102 million Americans will travel by car for the holidays this year, up almost four and a half percent from last year and the highest number of holiday road trippers since AAA began tracking in 2001. This higher-than-normal number of motorists threatens to congest the roads and increase the risk of serious car accidents. The consequences of ignoring basic road safety travel tips this time of year can even be deadly; the National Safety Council reports that, on average, 343 people are killed in car crashes across the country during the three days around Christmas, while 373 people on average are in fatal car accidents over the New Year’s holiday.

So what can you do to avoid becoming a statistic this holiday season? These four safety travel tips are easy enough to follow, but can help you avoid getting in a car crash that can lead to legal troubles, serious injury or worse.

Heavy Traffic on highway
It is critical to think about safety precautions during your travels.

1. Don’t Drink and Drive

One of the most avoidable safety travel tips but unfortunately one that people fail to follow, drunk driving. Drivers are well aware of the dangers of drinking and driving, but the temptation to push your limits can be high at this time of year. It can seem like no big deal to get behind the wheel after having a drink or two at a holiday party, but the consequence of doing so can be dire. Even if you are lucky enough not to get into a serious or fatal car accident, the number of drunk driving task forces increases over key holiday weekends, making you much more likely to get caught if you do drive impaired with potentially grave legal repercussions.

Plan ahead of time if you know you’ll be drinking at a holiday outing so that you don’t put yourself in the position of being persuaded to drink and drive. Arrange to stay the night at the party host’s house, plan to carpool with a designated driver who you know can be relied upon not to drink, take public transportation instead, or order a cab or car service to and from the party. Thinking ahead and following through with the steps above can help you avoid costly legal trouble or serious injuries.

2. Plan for the Worst Weather Conditions

Whether you’re planning a long road trip to the Northeast or are going to be staying in-state this holiday season, it’s important to be prepared for a wide range of winter weather conditions when considering road safety. Even within Texas, weather conditions can vary considerably and unexpectedly; if you’re used to milder winters and are heading to an area of the country with colder, snowier weather, the need to prepare is even greater.

Start by making a winter survival kit for your car. This should include key items like a snow shovel, ice scraper, salt for traction, jumper cables, duct tape, a car jack, warm clothes, non-perishable food like energy bars, and an extra cell phone charger. As you stow this kit in your trunk, take the time to check out your spare tire. A recent Liberty Mutual poll found that 30 percent of drivers don’t check their spare tire before hitting the road–but it can be inconvenient or even dangerous to get a flat tire and find out that your spare is also flat.

3. Drive Intelligently

It’s always a good idea to be an attentive driver who follows the rules of the road and pays close attention to other motorists, but driving intelligently is never more important than it is over the holidays. The combination of greater-than-normal traffic, drunk drivers and bad weather can create perfect conditions for causing accidents–and you’ll need to be alert and aware in order to avoid such accident risks.

First and foremost, slow down and follow the speed limit. Not only will you decrease your chances of getting in a car crash–particularly on icy or wet roads–you’ll also lower your chances of getting an expensive traffic ticket. It is known that police throughout the states increase their presence on the roads at all hours during the holiday season. With traffic rising during the holidays, your rush to get your holiday shopping done could result in a pricey fine and points on your license.

Make sure to be aware of emergency vehicles as well. Since accident risks are greater at this time of year, the number of ambulances, police cars and fire trucks rushing to the scene of a crash is also higher. You can protect your own safety and the safety of those around you by pulling over to let emergency vehicles pass and leaving a safe space when passing a parked emergency vehicle.

Other travel tips to increase your driving awareness: stay focused on the horizon to see road hazards far in advance and keep a safe distance of at least two seconds when following other vehicles.

4. Know What to Do in an Emergency

It’s unfortunate but true that many of us panic when we’re involved in an emergency situation. Preparing yourself in advance can help improve your response and safeguard your road safety. Having the number for a roadside assistance service available is critical; besides programming it in your phone, put the number on a piece of paper in your glove box or other safe places in your car. You’ll be glad you did if you find yourself stranded during your holiday travels.

If you are involved in an accident–or witness one involving other drivers–knowing what to do is important. Injuries may not be as noticeable right away and that is why we recommend you seek medical attention after an accident. If there’s any doubt about the severity of injuries, you can always dial 911 for help. If you are able to move your car, getting it to the side of the road and putting on your hazard lights can prevent further accident risks.

Holiday travel can be a wonderful opportunity to see friends and family–and with a little extra care and caution, you and your loved ones can avoid many of the risks that holiday road travel can bring. If you’ve been injured in an accident Davis Law Firm can help you obtain the compensation that you need to continue on.   Our office is available 24/7 to take your call!  Call us at (210) 444-4444, (956) 444-4444 or (361) 444-4444. We offer a free initial consultation to review your legal inquiry.