The holiday season is a great time to celebrate with family and friends, but it also means increased traffic on the road and the busy nature of the season makes it one of the most car accident-prone times of the year. Make sure your holidays are full of nothing but joy and peace by taking some extra precautions when driving in December with these dos and don’ts of holiday driving:
DON’T drive distracted.
As many as 8 out of 10 accidents are caused by distracted driving. Most often that means distraction due to using a cell phone. Be sure to program your GPS before leaving your driveway and don’t attempt to answer texts or calls while en route. Queue up your holiday playlist before leaving your driveway, too, and don’t try to fiddle with music or temperature controls while you are actively on the road.
DON’T drive inebriated.
Despite increased awareness, 22% of all fatal accidents in Ontario still involve alcohol, and 12% involve drug use on the part of the driver. Know your limits, track your use of controlled substances, and always err on the side of safety if you’re not sure if you’ve had too much. Choose a designated driver from your group if you can, or use ride-sharing programs to get home safely.
And as the party host, remember to keep alcohol and drug use light yourself, and check-in with all friends and family before they leave. Be ready to offer a friendly couch or guest room to partygoers who shouldn’t be driving home.
DON’T drive fatigued.
Fatigue may be a factor in as many as 1 in 5 car crashes and can hit at any time of day. In fact, late afternoon as the sun is setting is a common time for fatigue-related accidents. Although this is a very busy time of year, try to keep your sleep on schedule and be well-rested before getting behind the wheel. If socializing late at night, consider staying overnight with your hosts. Especially if the weather for the drive home is bad. For road trips to see family, take breaks every two hours, change drivers when possible, and drive earlier in the day when you are more alert.
DO check the weather and road conditions in advance.
Weather can be unpredictable in December, so make sure you are prepared for any precipitation or ice forming on roads. Check that your car’s fluids are full and your headlights and foglights are running before heading out. Always match your speed to the conditions, slowing down at any time of low visibility. And of course, in Ontario, always install your winter tires well before the holiday season.
DO pack an emergency kit.
In the worst-case scenario, you don’t want to be stuck at the side of the road with a cold, tired family and no supplies. Pack your emergency kit with a shovel and kitty litter to help get out of icy conditions, and include a first aid kit, a large flashlight, warm blankets, and snacks. Plus, jumper cables and a snow-brush are holiday-time must-haves.
DO keep a careful watch for unusual behaviour by others.
This is the time of year to go on the defensive! Pedestrians and drivers alike may behave unexpectedly in December. You might see:
- Busy shoppers emerging from between cars, with lowered vision due to weather or large packages.
- Cars circling and watching for parking spots, and not being careful about right-of-way in parking lots and structures.
- Visitors from out-of-town making sudden lane changes or exits from the highway.
Taking time to look carefully, proceed with caution, and drive with alertness will help ensure this holiday season is a happy one for all. Season’s greetings to everyone and safe travels!
Earn your Road SMARTS
Learn more road safety tips by taking the #RoadSMARTS pledge. By taking the Road SMARTS Pledge, you Support Making All Road Travel Safe, which can help improve road safety for everyone. When road behaviours change, accidents are reduced. For more information and to take the pledge for free, visit https://www.ottawasafetycouncil.ca/road-smarts.