While many people enjoy spending holidays with family and friends, the increased car travel and consumption of alcohol make the roadways especially precarious. This means your chances of being involved in a car accident increases during this time of year.
North Carolina Car Accident Statistics
In 2016, there were over 260,000 car accidents state-wide, according to North Carolina Department of Transportation statistics. These accidents resulted in 1,441 deaths and over 130,000 injuries. There were nearly 1,100 car accidents in Shelby, North Carolina alone in 2016.
In December 2016, there were over 25,000 car accidents state-wide, resulting in 11,538 reported injuries and 133 fatalities.
Safe Driving Tips for the Holidays
A car accident can result in severe injuries and even the loss of a loved one. These tips can help you stay safe this holiday season:
- Be aware of your surroundings. Whether you're a driver, a pedestrian, a motorcyclist or a bicyclist, be aware that this is one of the busiest travel seasons of the year. Drivers are likely to be in a hurry, stressed, or even under the influence. Be extra cautious this time of year.
- Perform regular vehicle maintenance. Check your tires, windshield wipers and battery. If you've been putting off an oil change, brake check or other routine maintenance, take care of those before you head out on a holiday car trip.
- Wear a seat belt. Not only does North Carolina require that most drivers and passengers wear seat belts, unrestrained drivers and passengers are more likely to be seriously injured or killed in an accident.
- Slow down. The "safe" driving speed for particular road or traffic conditions may be less than the posted speed limit. Increased holiday travel means more drivers on the roads, and wintry weather can also make driving more dangerous. Slow down to a safe speed for the particular conditions, and don't be tempted to speed to make up time, even if you're running late.
- Give yourself extra time to travel. More drivers on the road means it is likely to take longer to reach your destination. Plan ahead and give yourself more time to travel, especially if you're traveling at peak traffic times.
- Take breaks during long drives. If you will be driving long distances during the holidays, plan to stop at least every two hours for a break. Walk around, stretch, grab a snack or have a (nonalcoholic) drink.
- Don't use your phone while driving (or walking). All North Carolina drivers are forbidden from texting while driving, and novice drivers under the age of 18 are also forbidden from talking on their phones when they're behind the wheel. I know it can be tempting to send a quick text message when you're running holiday errands or shopping, but taking your eyes off the road for even a few seconds can easily cause an accident. Pedestrians should also avoid using their phones when they're crossing the street.
- Plan ahead to get home safely. If you will be drinking at a holiday event or gathering, plan ahead to make sure you can get home safely. Alcohol was a factor in over 40% of the crashes causing injury or death in Cleveland County last year. Choose a designated driver who will not drink at all. If you don't have a designated driver, make sure you are able to call a cab or a ride service. Worst case scenario, get a hotel room or have your car towed. Not only are these options safer, but they're also less expensive than a DWI arrest.