The holidays can be a dangerous time to hit the road. No matter what our country is celebrating, there’s always a spike in car accidents during the holiday season.
This year, in light of the coronavirus pandemic, many families are opting to avoid crowded airports and train stations. Instead, they’ll be taking road trips in their personal vehicles to visit relatives for the holidays. Among Americans with travel plans this year, a whopping 85% say they are most comfortable traveling via their personal automobile (while still avoiding planes, public transit, and rideshare apps.) For many cautious folks, this may be the first time all year they’re mixing households, and driving seems like a good way to continue minimizing contact with strangers.
Unfortunately, more traffic means more chances for wrecks.
Read on below to learn more about how the pandemic is affecting this holiday travel season, the latest facts about Texas holiday car accidents, and how you can keep your family safe through it all.
If you’re in need of a Houston car accident attorney, we’re here for you 24/7. We offer free consultations, 365 days a year.
― COVID-19: Playing it Safe ―
Across the country, coronavirus cases are rising in all age groups. Many families are reacting accordingly: a survey by Morning Consult found that 47% of American respondents were canceling family holiday plans this year. 74% said their gatherings would be smaller than usual, and 49% planned to check out virtual alternatives.
Still, we know many people plan to take the risk and see their families in person. Here in Texas, we’ve seen the potential outcome before: In May, a family’s gathering in Dallas resulted in 18 people contracting COVID-19, three of whom were hospitalized. The following month, a family’s Father’s Day celebration at a Houston restaurant infected seven people and killed one. Elsewhere in Texas, a small dinner party hosted by a couple for their parents resulted in all six of them catching the coronavirus and spreading it to other family members, one of whom died.
The pandemic is undoubtedly adding to everyone’s travel anxiety. However, it’s important to note that years of data show holiday travel also poses risks outside of the pandemic.
― What Holiday Has the Most Car Accidents? ―
2020 has been wild, but no matter what year it is, motorists will still face some holiday hazards.
Is inclement weather to blame? Not necessarily. A study published by AutoInsurance.org found that summer holidays tend to have more fatal crashes and drunk driving crashes.
So why is holiday travel dangerous? What is the most dangerous holiday to drive, and where? To find out more about holiday travel risks, a study by ValuePenguin looked at the Fatality Analysis Reporting System’s fatal car accident data over a span of four years. Some of their findings:
- Memorial Day Weekend came in first, with an average of 312 fatal accidents per year. Labor Day weekend and 4th of July weekend followed close behind, with 308 and 307 respectively. (The average number of fatal accidents in a normal/non-holiday 3-day span was 250.)
- Houston, San Antonio, and Los Angeles were the most dangerous cities to drive in during holidays.
- I-10, which stretches through Texas on its way from California to Florida, is the most dangerous road to drive on during the Thanksgiving/Christmas period.
- Overall, the southeastern region of the United States was more likely to have accidents.
Additionally, delivery truck drivers are often on tighter deadlines during the holiday season. When they make poor decisions to try to meet these deadlines, such as speeding or driving while fatigued, they can cause serious truck accidents.
― Drunk Driving & the Holidays ―
With all the revelry of a holiday, there’s also an influx of drunk drivers — and drunk driving accidents — around these days. In Texas, holiday periods see more than a 33% increase in drunk driving crashes, drunk driving incapacitating injuries, and drunk driving accident fatalities.
We’re sure you’ve heard of Black Friday, but what about “Blackout Wednesday?” This questionable unofficial holiday is how some people choose to spend the day before Thanksgiving, kicking off their four-day-weekend by grabbing drinks with their hometown pals.
According to The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s data for one recent year, 41 Americans died in drunk driving accidents between 6PM on “Blackout Wednesday” and 6AM Thanksgiving morning. That’s an average of almost one death every 15 minutes.
Bartenders aren’t the only ones who prepare for this day. Police are on high alert as well. In fact, many police departments across the nation are extra vigilant during all holidays, on the lookout for drivers under the influence. If you drive drunk, you not only risk getting arrested or having your car impounded, you risk the lives of others. Don’t risk it. We encourage you to appoint a designated driver whenever you and your crew leave home.
― Most Dangerous Holidays to Drive in Texas ―
What holiday has the most car accidents? Are certain holidays more dangerous than others for Texas drivers? To take a closer look, our Houston car accident lawyer team analyzed holiday car accident statistics collected by TxDOT from 2015 to 2019. Here’s what we discovered.
[source: The Texas Department of Transportation]
Over the five years we studied, the 4th of July period had the most fatal car accidents in Texas. Thanksgiving came in second. Memorial Day ranked third, although people were more likely to drink on this holiday and the preceding weekend.
Drunk driving was a consistent issue: alcohol contributed to over one-third of all fatal holiday car accidents.
― Safety Tips for Avoiding a Holiday Car Accident ―
Wondering how to reduce your risk of a crash after reading all those holiday car accident statistics? Here are our holiday road trip recommendations for staying safe out there.
- Get a tune-up.
You should get a car inspection before any big road trip, but especially if you’ll be encountering snowy weather. Replace dull wiper blades, change your oil, and check your brakes, tire pressure, battery life, filters, and fluid levels. Make sure you check your lights so you stay visible to other drivers on the road at night!
- Make a plan.
Before all else, research your destination and make sure you’ll be allowed in. Some states have travel restrictions — like mandatory quarantines — in place. If you are able to go, you still need a game plan. If you end up running late to a holiday gathering, you may be tempted to speed to make it in time for dinner. Plan ahead to avoid this scenario. Use a map app to estimate how many hours the drive will be, add in more time for snacks and leg stretches, then add in even more time for good measure.
- Be prepared for emergencies.
A good packing checklist will ensure you don’t forget anything. Pack the following for your trip:
- face masks for every passenger
- first-aid kit
- jumper cables
- flares or reflectors
- spare tire and kit (jack, wrench, etc.)
- hand sanitizer
- disposable gloves
- wet wipes and paper towels
- snacks and water
- power bank or solar-powered phone charger
- Keep your tank full.
Get gas, even when you think you don’t need it. Gas stations might be few and far between, so take every opportunity to avoid getting stranded. Wear disposable gloves when pumping gas to protect against germs.
- Avoid fatigued driving.
Do not drive for more than 8 hours straight. Take turns with other licensed passengers if you can.
- Avoid driving at night.
Aim to reach your destination before sundown, even if that means waking up at 4AM. Studies show driving at night is more dangerous, and you’re more likely to overlook motorcycle riders or encounter drunk drivers at night. Which brings us to our most important tip…
- Drink responsibly/have a designated driver.
That spiked eggnog can sneak up on you. If you’ve partied too hard, do the responsible thing and call an Uber or a cab. On the other hand, if you are hosting a gathering involving alcohol, confirm that every guest is 100% sober or has a designated driver when they depart. If not, don’t be afraid to snatch some keys and inflate some air mattresses!
- Know who to call.
Finally, in case of emergency, you need to know someone’s got your back. If you need a car accident attorney in Houston, we’re here for you!
― Happy Holidays from Houston Car Accident Lawyer ―
When it comes to holiday car accidents, alcohol isn’t the only culprit. Drivers may be frazzled by the general hustle and bustle of the holidays, distracted by unruly kids in the car, or sleepy from gorging on too much turkey. You might even get into a fender bender in a crowded department store parking lot!
This season, take solace in the fact we are all working toward the common goal of avoiding a holiday car accident. By staying cautious this year, you can ensure everyone makes it to their family’s table in the years still to come. Do your part. Plan ahead, and never make the decision to get behind the wheel if you’re fatigued or under the influence.
If you or your family have been injured in a holiday car accident, you deserve the best car accident lawyer. Houston car accident lawyers are here for you.
Our experts are available 24/7, 365 days a year, to provide 100% FREE consultations. Call now to get the answers you need, and the compassion you deserve.