Driving safely during the holidays

Published: December 21, 2021 8:33 AM EST
Updated: December 21, 2021 10:00 AM EST

If you are driving this holiday season, be careful: Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day is one of the most dangerous times to be out on the road due to people drinking more, having less sunlight and being more tired while driving.

Christmas and New Year’s Eve are considered especially dangerous, with more drunk-driving fatalities than any other holiday period in the year. The average number of alcohol-related crashes nationwide goes from 28% to 38% during this time due to people attending more parties and celebrations. The lack of daylight during the winter also plays a role in the uptick, as more crashes happen in darkness. Experts say drowsy driving is another big cause, with people having bigger holiday meals that leave them sleepy. They say drowsy driving is just as dangerous as driving drunk.

“Falling asleep at the wheel, even for a couple of seconds… if you just shut your eyes for three or four seconds, at highway speeds, three or four seconds means you’ve gone more than the length of a football field,” said David Reich with the National Road Safety Foundation. “So imagine doing that with your eyes shut. That’s just a recipe for disaster, either hitting another car, going off the road totally, running into a tree.”

It’s all about planning ahead and not being in a hurry. Traffic crash deaths in Florida were up more than 6% in 2020 even though the number of miles driven was down. Experts say this indicates speed is a major factor in many crashes, in addition to drunk and drowsy driving. They say having a plan before you pick up your keys can make all the difference, whether that means leaving early to avoid being in a rush or making sure you have a designated driver.

You don’t have to be falling down drunk to be over the legal blood alcohol content—even one or two drinks can affect the way your drive and your reaction time. Keeping these things in mind can save you from thousands of dollars in fines, jail time and the trauma that can come with hurting someone else.

“We’ve seen enough tragedies in our community and statewide,” said Lt. Greg Bueno with the Florida Highway Patrol. “I think we just surpassed 100 traffic fatalities in Lee County and our state is nearing 3,000 fatal crashes statewide. It’s so important just to make good decisions, practice good habits to keep yourself in check.”

Besides planning ahead, simply wearing a seatbelt can greatly reduce these heightened risks.

In addition, AAA is bringing back their Tow to Go service for the holidays. If you’ve had too much to drink, AAA will pick up you and your car for free and drop you off at your destination, as long as it’s within a 10-mile radius. If you use the service, you will need a mask to ride in the tow truck.

All you have to do is call (855) 286-9246. The service starts Friday at 6 p.m. and will go until Monday, January 3 at 6 a.m.