The winter holidays see millions of Americans driving to join in celebrations—be they interstate excursions for family gatherings or across-town jaunts for holiday parties. Add getting behind the wheel for holiday shopping and related errands, then combine that with wintry driving conditions and the chances of encountering hazards on the road increase.
But there are actions you can take to keep safe on the road. Be aware of:
1. Distracted Driving
That includes using cell phones to talk, text and check websites. Nearly two-thirds of traffic accidents involve someone using a phone.
Research shows you are six times as likely to get into an accident driving while texting than driving drunk so put the phone away when driving. Assign a navigator to handle any GPS duties.
2. Pressured Driving
Pressures and stresses related to getting through your holiday checklist can lead to speeding and other driving blunders that result in safety hazards.
Check weather reports for the route so that you’ll know what conditions to expect where you’re driving. If the forecast is calling for severe weather, consider postponing or canceling travel plans.
4. Fatigued Driving
Those crowded schedules during the season can mean less sleep. A study by AAA found that even an hour less sleep than the recommended eight hours-a-night nearly doubles the chance of a driver being in a crash. You’re 4.3 times as likely to wreck if you only sleep five hours.
5. Impaired Driving
Resist the alcohol at parties if you’re driving or get a ride. In the age of Uber and Lyft, there’s no excuse for driving drunk.
In the winter months, deer and other animals on the road can pose significant dangers to drivers, says State Farm insurance agent Pam Hansen Alfred in Great Falls.
“The biggest mistake you can make while driving is to try to avoid that animal by swerving,” she says. “Unfortunately, the best approach if you can’t slow down enough is to hit it, because there are more lives lost from swerving and missing the animals than actually hitting the animals.”
Make sure your vehicle is road-ready with proper fluid level, battery charge, tire pressure and a full gas tank. If you don’t have snow or studded tires for the winter months, get them now.
Hansen Alfred suggests motorists be prepared for unexpected emergencies by keeping supplies in the vehicle, including a flashlight, first-aid kit, snacks, and extra gloves and hats.
“You always want to make sure, especially living in the state of Montana, that you travel with a book of matches, some water and a blanket because you never know when you’re going to get stranded by the side of the road,” she says. “My husband insists on traveling with a pair of jumper cables. It’s an advantage not only if your battery goes dead in the winter, but you can help someone else charge their battery so you can get them going.”
Pam Hansen Alfred’s office at 2817 10th Avenue South in Great Falls provides auto, home, business, property, life and health insurance. The Great Falls native has been a State Farm agent since 1986, and has a team ready discuss your coverage needs at 406-453-6010 or 800-823-3620. Find out more at PamHansenAlfred.com
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