The last weeks of December are some of the most celebrated days of every year, and with these parties, reunions, and holiday cheer come plenty of cocktails and, sadly, overindulgence. Far too many revelers then make the poor choice to get behind the wheel of a car and drive after drinking. Fatal car accidents are as common to Christmas and New Year’s as mistletoe and noise makers.
Close to 31 percent of all driving fatalities on United States highways in 2013 were alcohol-related. And while holidays like the Fourth of July and Labor Day have well-established reputations for drinking and driving accidents, the fatal car accidents that take place at the end of the year drive that number up tremendously.
Complicating the Already-Dangerous Drinking and Driving
During Christmas and New Year’s there are approximately 95 million people traveling by car, according to AAA. And when these high numbers are combined with the horrible decisions to drive drunk, what should be one of the merriest days of the year becomes one of the deadliest.
Here are just some of the other factors that complicate drunk driving:
- Not wearing a seatbelt. It’s not just front-seat passengers whose lives are compromised by not wearing a seatbelt. Somehow, backseat passengers consider themselves magically protected and are less likely to snap a belt into place. In 2013, there were 883 unrestrained rear seat passenger fatalities for people age 8 and over.
- Weekend holidays. When winter holidays fall on a weekend, as Christmas and New Year’s do this year, it’s not surprising to see the number of car accidents increase. There are more people who are able to travel, more parties scheduled, and that means plenty of chances to drink too much.
- Bad weather. Treacherous winter weather conditions play a role in car accidents, putting all vehicles in danger, especially visitors to an area who are driving in unfamiliar territory and compromised road conditions.
- Work deadlines. Gift giving. Arguing over where to spend the holidays, who’s going to sleep where, what everyone is going to eat. Wondering how you’re going to pay for it all. Typical holiday stress can lead to more aggressive driving.
- Distracted driving. Use of smartphones behind the wheel – as well as well-established distracted driving like managing children in the backseat, putting on makeup, or eating while driving – make traveling by car more dangerous for all people on the roads.
Combine any or all of these factors with alcohol, and this is indeed a frightening time of year to be on the highways. Drivers, passengers, and completely sober souls are all at the mercy of one person’s awful choice to drink and drive.
Every year, thousands of people are arrested and cited for drunk driving. And far too many people lose their lives in accidents that could have been prevented. If you select a designated driver, remember that the definition of a designated driver is the person who does not drink at all – not the person who drinks less than anyone else. And, when you are too intoxicated to drive, call a cab – or entrust another person at your gathering to do so for you. Better yet, leave your keys at home and take an Uber to your destination – you’ll have no opportunity to get behind the wheel no matter how little or how much you drink.
About: Christensen Law is a personal injury firm located in Southfield, Michigan. With more than 25 years of experience representing victims of car accidents, David Christensen encourages you to be smart this holiday season and take precautions if you’re too drunk to drive.
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