Car Accidents and the Holidays
The holidays are upon us, and this is what the famous song refers to as the “most wonderful time of the year.” The holidays are a wonderful time in which we look forward to spending some relaxing days catching up with close family and friends. But with all those get-togethers comes increased travel. During the month of December, Americans will put on millions of miles to go out to holiday parties and drive out of town to visit family members. Car accidents are a heightened concern during the holidays, especially in states where there is a strong likelihood of inclement weather.
West Virginia is definitely among the areas in which motorists must exercise extreme caution while driving during the winter. Our narrow, winding roads and high mountainous regions can be a recipe for disaster, especially on days leading up to Christmas and New Year’s when there are numerous travelers on the road.
What Causes Auto Accidents During the Holidays?
Increased road congestion and poor driving conditions are two of the major reasons more car accidents occur during the holiday season. These factors are beyond our control, but there are other causes (that are largely within our control) that contribute to these accidents. Some of the most common include:
- Holiday Stress: Everyone is in a hurry during the holidays. There are countless places to go and things that need to be done. Shopping for loved ones, mailing out cards and gifts, preparing the house for guests/visitors, preparing for holiday parties, going to school events and other presentations, and numerous other tasks can put undue stress on even the most level-headed drivers. This combined with heavy traffic and bad weather can lead to very poor driving decisions.
- Distracted Driving: These days, more and more people are texting while driving and sending other types of electronic messages when they are supposed to be focused on the road. With all the coordinating that needs to be done around holiday events and related tasks, it is easy for people to take out the phone and try to sneak a quick text in while they are slowing up to a stop sign or stop light. Texting while driving is an especially dangerous activity, because it distracts drivers in three ways; manually, visually, and cognitively.
- DUI/DWI: According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, drunk driving accounts for accounts for 28% of all car accident fatalities during the month of December. And on average, 300 people are killed each year just in the week between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve alone. Many holiday gatherings involve alcohol, and it is tempting for those celebrating to get behind the wheel after having a few drinks, especially if they only have to drive a short distance. Sadly, this results in numerous preventable auto accident injuries and fatalities during the holidays.
- Faulty Vehicle Maintenance: Maintaining your vehicle is important at all times, but this is especially true during the winter. Drivers need to make sure their cars are tuned up, their brakes are in working order, and their tires are not worn down to unsafe tread levels. Here in West Virginia, tire chains of reasonable proportions are sometimes required because of snow, ice, or other slippery conditions. When owners do not take proper steps to ensure that their vehicles are maintained, they can endanger themselves and others on the road.
Safe Driving Tips for the Holidays
Have your Vehicle Checked Over
Before going on a long trip, you need to make sure your vehicle is ready and in good repair. Here are some important areas to get serviced and checked:
- Get your oil changed and top off all of your other fluids.
- Have your battery tested to make sure it is keeping a charge.
- Get the tread depth on your tires checked and have your tires properly inflated and rotated.
- Check the condition of your wiper blades and replace them if they are damaged.
- Get your brakes inspected to make sure there is plenty of wear left on them.
- Have your mechanic make any other necessary repairs.
- Clean your car out and reduce the clutter inside.
Pack Up an Emergency Safety Kit
Have some essential supplies in your vehicle in case of an emergency. Items to pack may include:
- Warm blankets
- Road flares
- Extra stocking caps, scarfs and gloves
- Heat warmers
- Jumper cables
- A flashlight
- A first-aid kit
- A bag of sand, rock salt, or cat litter are for traction on snow and ice if needed
- Snacks and drinking water
Obtain Emergency Roadside Assistance
Before you go, make sure you are subscribed to some type of emergency roadside assistance. This could be through your auto insurance carrier, or it could be through an outside provider such as AAA. Also be sure to have the roadside assistance phone number handy; either write it down and keep it in an easily accessible place in the car, or load it into the contact list on your smartphone.
Get Plenty of Rest Before Traveling
Always be sure to have a good night sleep before going on a long road trip. Driving for several hours can make you very tired, and the last thing you want is to become drowsy or sleepy behind the wheel. For most adults, it is best to get at least seven hours of sleep before you leave on your trip.
What to Do If Injured in an Auto Accident During the Holidays
If you are involved in a car accident this holiday season, there are some steps you should take to ensure your safety and protect your legal rights:
- Seek Medical Attention
The first priority is to ensure that everyone who may have been hurt in the accident receives medical help right away. If there are injuries, call 911 and summon an ambulance to the scene. Some injuries are not easy to detect right away, such as whiplash and injuries to internal organs. If this was a high-impact collision, call for medical attention for everyone involved just to be on the safe side.
- Call the Police
The police should be called to the accident scene to ensure that an official report is filed. The police will investigate what happened, interview witnesses, etc. and put it all in their report. Be sure to review the report when you have a chance and check for any inaccuracies.
- Document as Much as Possible
Write down, in as much detail as you can, how the accident occurred. Do this as soon as possible, so everything is still fresh in your mind. In addition, take multiple photographs of the accident scene from various angles, and obtain the contact information for any individuals who may have seen what happened. Their testimony may be valuable later on if you end up pursuing an injury claim.
- Contact a Seasoned West Virginia Motor Vehicle Accident Attorney
If you or someone close to you was hurt or killed in an auto accident during the holidays, you may be entitled to compensation. Before speaking with the other party’s insurance company, get in touch with an experienced personal injury lawyer. An attorney who has in-depth experience with car accident injury cases can thoroughly review your case and advise you of your rights and options, so you can make the most informed decision regarding which legal avenue you want to pursue.
Contact The Experienced Car Accident Injury Attorneys at Bailey Javins & Carter
If you, or a loved one, has been injured in a car accident this holiday season, contact the experienced car accident injury attorneys at Bailey Javins & Carter. Contact our office at (304) 345-0346 or contact us online.