CHICAGO- Holiday shopping, traveling, and celebrating can make for a festive season, but it can also mean congested and dangerous roads. Keeping auto safety in mind—by avoiding distracted and impaired driving—can help reduce auto crashes during the busy holiday season, according to the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI). Motor vehicle deaths surpassed 40,000 for the second consecutive year in 2017, and 4.57 million people were seriously injured in motor vehicle crashes, according to the National Safety Council.
“Distracted driving—particularly when using a smartphone—is believed to be one of the leading causes for the rise in vehicle crashes, injuries, and deaths nationwide,” said Bob Passmore, assistant vice president of personal lines policy at PCI. “It’s also becoming clearer that marijuana-impaired driving is another one of the many factors believed to be contributing to this alarming trend, particularly as more states legalize recreational marijuana use.”
According to a 2018 study by Zendrive, an analytics company, found that on an average day, more than 60 percent of people use their phones at least once while behind the wheel. Based on United States Census data, this means that at least 69 million drivers use their phones while driving each day.
“Too many drivers are still texting, surfing the web, watching movies, posting to social media, or viewing other apps on their smartphones while driving,” said Passmore. “With greater numbers of drivers on the roads over the holidays, the potential for crashes increases. Eliminating distractions, focusing on the road, refraining from alcohol- and drug-impaired driving, and staying alert to driving conditions and other cars truly can prevent crashes.”
Simple modifications to driver behaviors can save lives. PCI offers the following additional tips for safe driving.
PCI’s Top 5 Safe Driving Tips:
1. Avoid distracted driving. Don’t talk on the phone, text, or use apps while driving. Put the phone down and just drive. Try to limit other distractions, such as eating or fiddling with controls, and be aware that having more passengers in the car multiplies the opportunity for distraction. Secure pets in the back of the car.
2. Never drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Remember, just like driving drunk, driving high is illegal. Evidence shows that marijuana use can impair critical abilities necessary for safe driving, such as attention, reaction time, lane tracking, and cognitive and executive functions. Whether you’re high or drunk, your judgment, motor coordination, and reaction time are impaired.
3. Wear your seatbelt. Whether you’re traveling to see friends or family or just running errands, buckle up and drive safely. Seat belts save lives and help prevent injuries. Also, make sure kids are in the proper car or booster seats.
4. Give yourself plenty of time. Plan ahead and allow extra travel time. With more people on the roads over the holidays, often driving in unfamiliar territory, the potential for auto crashes increases. Plan routes in advance when traveling to new destinations and be patient.
5. Pay attention to your speed. Observe speed limits, including lower speeds in work zones. Stay focused on the road and be aware of changing traffic patterns caused by construction. Enforcement penalties are often increased for texting while driving in construction zones. Also, slow down on icy and slippery roads during inclement weather conditions.