Make it to your holiday destination safe with these safe driving tips

Posted November 15, 2018 1:42 p.m. EST

The American Automobile Association estimates around 97 million people travel by car during the holidays. (tibor13/Big Stock Photo)

This article was written for our sponsor, Whitley Law Firm.

The holidays are undoubtedly an exciting and celebratory time. Because of this, it's also one of the busiest times of the year.

With the hustle and bustle of the season, this means more people will be on the roads. Last year the American Automobile Association estimated around 97 million people travel by car during the holidays.

With extra traffic and congestion, it's important you do everything in your power to prevent and safeguard against an automobile accident. Here are some tips that can help you make it safely to your holiday destination.

Drive Distraction Free

While it may be tempting to crank up some festive music or momentarily glance at your phone messages, even minimal distractions can be dangerous, especially when there are increased numbers of people on the road.

"In my experience, the most common cause of automobile accidents is distracted driving," said Robert E. Whitley, a personal injury attorney and founder of Whitley Law Firm in Raleigh. "Certainly, the use of a cell phone while driving is a distraction [but] I've learned from human factors experts that it's not necessarily the physical distraction of looking at the phone or handling the phone; it's the mental distraction of picturing in your mind the person you’re talking to or what you're talking about."

Whitley said a driving distraction isn't always texting. It is any kind of distraction that causes the driver not to pay complete attention to what’s ahead of you on the road or the operation of your vehicle.

Getting distracted by texting, talking on the phone, music or even eating food while driving can place you, those in your car and other people on the road at risk.

There are 47 states that have enacted laws against distracted driving, and 41 of them have explicitly banned texting when driving. While no state has yet to ban cell phone usage completely in the car, studies have shown that driver distractions are growing more prevalent and are contributing to — if not increasing — the number of car accidents each year.

To prevent the possibility of a distraction-related accident, make sure that your music is at a reasonable volume for you to hear other cars around you honk, that you are not fiddling with your phone, and that you are driving the speed limit and obeying traffic laws.

Don’t Drive When Tired

The holiday season, while wonderful, can also be exhausting.

People busy themselves this time of year by making preparations, buying gifts, participating in seasonal events and staying up late. It's no wonder that a week with extended family members and daily activities could leave you feeling a little fatigued once it's time to hit the open road and head home.

While driver fatigue accidents are more challenging to evaluate since there is no test like blood alcohol screening for for drunk driving, a moderate estimate places fatigue-related accidents at around 100,000 a year according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Additionally, a study done by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute Center for Vulnerable Road User Safety revealed driver fatigue contributes to as much of 20 percent of all auto collisions in the United States, although it was once believed that "sleepy drivers" only contributed to between two and three percent of all car accidents.

"There has been plenty of research that indicates that fatigue can be just as much a threat as drunk driving," Whitley said.

Drifting, crossing over lanes and ultimately crashing into something or someone can all result from nodding off while driving, and puts you and others on the road in extreme danger. Don't drive when tired; and if you find yourself getting sleepy while on the road, safely pull over at a rest station until you are rejuvenated enough to get back on the road and safely resume your journey.

Never Drive Drunk

While this seems self-explanatory, drunk driving is sadly still a problem in the United States. Not only is driving under the influence illegal, but it is dangerous and can be life-altering, if not life-threatening.

The NHTSA reports 29 people in the United States die every day in alcohol-impaired vehicle crashes.

The holiday season is often accompanied by the imbibing of alcoholic beverages. People who are celebrating with co-workers at holiday parties or kicking back with friends and family over dinner may enjoy festive beverages like eggnog and champagne. While there is nothing wrong with participating in the celebrations, it is always important to drink responsibly.

In North Carolina, it is illegal to drive an automobile with an alcohol level of 0.08 or higher. If driving a commercial vehicle, the limit is 0.04. However, a University of California at San Diego study found a driver with a blood-alcohol level of only 0.01 is 46 percent more likely to be entirely at fault for a car accident than a sober driver involved in a crash.

"The conclusion is the only safe blood alcohol level for a driver is zero," Whitley stressed. "This research argues that drivers should never get behind the wheel after so much as a small drink — for their safety and the safety of others."

The safest way to prevent an accident after you have been drinking is not to drive at all. With taxis and apps like Uber and Lyft, there’s no excuse to get behind the wheel.

Anticipate The Worst, Hope For The Best

Even if you drive distraction free, remain alert while on the road, and obey all traffic and state laws, things happen. Whether it's the actions of another driver, a deer that runs across the road, or an unexpected storm or winter weather event, it's always best to anticipate the worst while hoping for the best.

This means doing simple things like wearing your seatbelt, staying alert, and making sure that your automobile insurance and liability policy is up-to-date is of the utmost importance should things not go your way. Taking necessary precautions like this can help you both physically and legally, should you get into an accident this holiday season.

Unfortunately, it only takes one irresponsible driver to cause a crash. If you or a loved one has been in a car accident and are suffering the consequences of someone’s reckless actions, a personal injury lawyer can help.

"We are committed to helping clients obtain just compensation for their injuries and losses, using every available resource," said Ben Whitley, an attorney at Whitley Law Firm.

This article was written for our sponsor, Whitley Law Firm.