The holidays can be full of good food, fun, and family—but they also bring some risks. The roads that were clear when you left your house can be covered in snow within minutes when a winter storm hits. Low visibility and icy conditions can be challenging even when you’re at your best, and in the wake of holiday celebrations, you may not be. In a situation where fractions of a second can make the difference between life and death, alcohol and drugs can cloud your mind and slow your reflexes.
Don’t take chances this holiday season. Whether or not you plan to drink, it’s important to recognize the unique challenges of holiday travel and plan around them.
If you are planning a long trip, follow Santa’s lead by making a list and checking it twice. Know which route you will take and what conditions to expect. Make sure you are well-rested and that your vehicle is ready to go. This means getting the car inspected by a professional. Fluids, lights, and tires can be especially crucial in winter weather. You’ll also want an emergency kit with boots, gloves, blankets, flashlights, and something to help with traction if you get stuck, such as kitty litter or traction mats.
Law enforcement will be particularly vigilant during the holiday season as they scan for drunk drivers, so you don’t want to cut corners—literally or metaphorically. Before leaving the driveway, make sure everyone in the car is wearing their seatbelt (or, in the case of little ones, fastened securely in a car seat). On the road, obey traffic laws. Drive as carefully as you did during the driving test for your license. Keep within the speed limit and maintain a safe distance between you and the car in front of you.
As your grandma may have told you, it’s better to be late and make it there in one piece than to never arrive at all. Count on a slower-than-usual flow of traffic and expect to encounter more than your fair share of aggressive drivers. For longer trips, plan on taking regular breaks to refuel both your car and yourself. Plan on the trip taking longer than you think it should, and don’t give in to road rage.
What happens at your destination matters, too. Whether you are going to a big holiday party or a quiet family dinner, plan ahead of time how you will get home. Arrange for a designated driver, save the number for a taxi company in your phone, or download an app like Uber or Lyft—but whatever you do, do it before you start drinking. Don’t give your future self the benefit of the doubt.
Impaired driving is always dangerous, even in the best conditions, but winter weather and holiday celebrations often combine to create especially dangerous conditions. Statistics show that binge-drinking and drunk driving increase between “Blackout Wednesday” (Thanksgiving Eve) and New Year’s Day, and there are plenty of other hazards involved in holiday travel. However you expect to spend this holiday season, play it safe and plan ahead.