The holiday season is bustling with the clamor of travel. Year after year, Texas roadways swell with gridlocked traffic as drivers hustle to make it to their next costume party, pumpkin patch date, turkey feast, last-minute shopping trip, early-morning flight, ugly sweater party, or new year celebration.
Unfortunately, hundreds of Texans will not make it to their destination this time of year, or next, as the Lone Star State leads the nation in highest in holiday car accident fatalities by city. In fact, Houston and San Antonio outnumber any other city in the nation during the holidays — according to a study supported by evidence pulled from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s database, the Fatality Analysis Reporting System.
Here is some helpful information to help you and your family to stay safe.
Common Causes of Car Accidents
The following conditions are the most common causes of car accidents in the U.S. that can greatly increase during the holiday season.
Drunk Driving/DUI . According to 2016 Road Safety Facts data provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 29 people die every day in automotive crashes caused by drunk drivers. Unsurprisingly, these types of accidents surge during major holidays as alcohol consumption doubles among average Americans.
Speeding. Texas was ranked by the NHTSA as the state with the most speeding-related traffic fatalities in 2015, with a total of 1,105 deaths. Those speeding-related deaths accounted for 31% of the total traffic fatalities in Texas. According to the Texas Department of Transportation, Harris County ranks second in the state for the highest number of speed-involved fatal crashes. People often speed because they are running late or frustrated with traffic. None of these rationalizations are a justification for the tragic outcomes that speeding can lead to. Slow down. No ugly sweater party is worth risking a life.
Dangerous driving conditions. Texas drivers infrequently encounter cold weather driving conditions on the roadway. When these conditions do occur, they can catch Texas drivers off guard. A few dangerous driving conditions include: high winds, rain, fog, sleet, frozen bridges, and black ice–all of which significantly increase accidents during the holiday season.
- Visual – Not keeping eyes on the road.
- Manual – Reaching for an object, such as a cell phone.
- Cognitive – keep your emotions in check!
The National Safety Council reports that cell phone use while driving causes approximately 1.6 million car crashes in the U.S. every year. In other words, 1 out of every 4 car accidents is caused by driving and texting at the same time. Put your phone down. Let your loved ones know you’re on your way to Thanksgiving dinner before hitting the road.
Driver fatigue When fatigued, driving a vehicle can be just as dangerous as driving while intoxicated. Unfortunately, many drivers do not address the severity of their fatigue and cause accidents that can injure and kill those involved. Many of us may experience lack of sleep caused by long travel delays during the busiest time of year for travel.
Highway defects It is estimated that 20% of all fatal road accidents involve a single car that runs off a road or highway, often causing other accidents. A defective highway can result from poor design, bad construction, or faulty maintenance. Unlike some states, Texas has no regulations regarding road construction suspension on major holidays, making it all the more dangerous to be behind the wheel during this time of year. It’s important to stay informed on lane closures, construction and detours when traveling Texas roads. You can do so at drivetexas.org
Safe Driving Tips
Follow these safety precautions on the road:
- Plan ahead
- Stay alert
- Drive defensively
- Don’t drive while impaired
- Avoid distractions
- Ensure everyone in the vehicle is appropriately secured by a seat belt or booster seat.
- Be patient and slow down
Road Safety for All
The safety tips above can help most people. There are some people that require specific safety precautions on the road–like children, teens, and senior citizens–as they tend to be at higher risk of injury when involved in a motor vehicle accident. Visit cdc.gov to find out how you can help protect vulnerable groups from becoming a preventable statistic.
Motor vehicle injuries are a leading cause of death among children, but you can make a difference. Protect yourself and little ones during this holiday season.
- Learn the new child passenger safety recommendations. Know the stages.
- Buckle children in age- and size-appropriate car seats, booster seats, and seat belts—these reduce the risk for injury in a car crash by up to 80 percent.
- Children are safest when car seats and booster seats are used correctly. Buckle children in the right way in the right seat and learn how to avoid the most common mistakes.
- Remember that children aged 12 and under should be properly buckled in the back seat.
- Set a good example by always wearing a seat belt yourself.
Drivers between the ages of 16 and 19 are three times as likely to be involved in a car accident. Help protect your teenager on the road.
- Understand the leading causes of teen crashes and injuries, from nighttime driving to not using seat belts.
- Consider using tools like parent-teen driving agreements.
- Know your state’s laws: all states have graduated driver licensing (GDL) systems, which help ensure teens can build driving skills under lower-risk conditions.
- Get in some supervised driving time with your teen over the holidays.
- Buckle up in every seat, on every trip, no matter how short.
Older adults make up 15% of all licensed drivers in the U.S., but Texas ranks 2nd in highway fatalities involving drivers aged 65 or older. While Texas does require residents over the age of 79 to pass a vision test every two years, in person, to renew their driver’s license, it’s important to keep these precautions in mind:
- Ask your doctor or pharmacist to review medicines—both prescription and over-the-counter—to reduce side effects and interactions.
- Have your eyes checked by an eye doctor at least once a year. Wear glasses and corrective lenses as required.
- Consider potential alternatives to driving, such as riding with a friend, using public transit, or using a rideshare service to get around.
Get the Justice You Deserve
When you have become a victim of a serious car accident, you need a personal injury lawyer who can help you get the money you need to pay your bills, repair or replace your vehicle, and move on with your life. Trying to recover from a serious car accident is difficult enough without dealing with complicated legal matters. You should not have to bear the burden of recovery and legal matters without help from an attorney who has handled these cases before.