Staying Safe During Your Commute to Work in the Holiday Season

It’s that time of year again! If you’re in the North, roads get snowy and icy. Even if you’re not, there’s so much celebrating going on during the holiday season that it sometimes feels like everyone around you has forgotten how to drive, right?


Keeping yourself safe on the road, if we think back to those drivers ed classes, is not only about reducing your own errors but accounting for other people’s. That’s one thing that makes the holiday season such a dangerous time to be on the road: Even the best drivers can’t predict what everyone else on the road is doing. If you drive for work, road safety is part of your job responsibility and winter weather can make that a lot more stressful.

There’s still a lot you can do to keep yourself safe this time of year. Let’s dive into keeping you, your family, and everyone else on the road safe!


The Dangers of the Holidays


The holiday season has dangers from numerous directions. There’s the weather, of course, but there’s a lot more than that. The frequency of gatherings and parties means more drunk drivers out in the wild, which is why the police often ramp up patrols and set up ride checks this time of year.


There are all sorts of weather conditions that can cause havoc on the roads. Ice often collects under bridges, and snow and slush can cause slipping and sliding too. Bad weather reduces visibility. Here are a few things you can do to prepare for the weather:


  • Get snow tires. Four of them.

We’ve all heard that you can get by with only two winter tires on the drive axle of your car, but this myth can be dangerous. You need four winter tires because having two won’t save you when your all-seasons slip and send you into a skid.

  • Put something heavy in the trunk.

If you’re driving a lighter vehicle that has trouble gripping, or you notice your back tires like to skip around on the snow, adding weight to the back of your vehicle can help. This is not a substitute for, but rather a supplement to, winter tires. In lighter vehicles, it can help your winter tires do their job. Sandbags, big boxes of cat litter, lifting weights — anything will work. The additional benefit of using sand or cat litter is that if you get stuck in deep snow, you can pour it around your tires to try and help with traction.

Stock up on first aid supplies, warm blankets, car fluids like antifreeze, road flares, water and food. It’s a good idea. ‘Nuff said.


Then there’s that “just one drink” temptation at gatherings that can lead to tragedy. On average, a person can metabolize one standard serving of alcohol in an hour, but there are all sorts of factors that can change this. It can be difficult to tell when you’re alright to drive, and even if you’re under the legal limit, the poor conditions make any impairment at all dangerous.


Be sure to analyze your driving habits and remind yourself of some of these auto-accident facts to renew your vigilance while driving.


Trucks and the Holidays


There are other dangers, too. The holiday season is the busiest time for the shipping and trucking industries, which means that truck accidents often spike during the holidays. This isn’t because trucks are inherently dangerous, but there are more of them on the road, and the drivers can get quite exhausted trying to meet their delivery times.


In fact, for the most part trucks are your friends on the road. Lots of people get worried around trucks, but being behind a truck (at a safe distance!) is a great place to be. Think about it: They stop a lot slower than you, and the drivers can see a lot further because they’re so high up. They also communicate with one another, and their dispatchers, with telematic technology, to stay informed about road conditions. A truck driver can often know about and respond to something a lot quicker than you. But you can stop a lot faster. So if they have to slam on their breaks, you’ve got a lot more time to react.


Doesn’t the spike in truck crashes make them more dangerous to be around in the holidays? Well, yes and no. Remember that part of the reason for the spike is the fact that there are more trucks out there, statistically raising the likelihood of accidents among that group. In addition, a lot of people don’t respect trucks on the road. They don’t think about a truck’s sightlines; they cut in front of a truck too close and force them to slow down. The worse the weather is, and the more exhausted the driver, the more likely this is to cause an accident.


It doesn’t make sense to actively avoid trucks on the road. Just respect them and remember that they need more time to respond to things than you do.


Car Technology and Holiday Safety


Driverless cars aren’t here yet, and while they may still be a long way off, many modern cars are implementing automated driver-assist features like blindspot warnings, backup cameras, brake assist, and others. Cruise control and anti-lock brakes have been around for ages, and they’re automated functions too. Our cars are getting safer and safer, outfitted with sensors to give you much more information than drivers had 10 years ago.


There is, however, a danger in these safety features. Learning to rely on features that can be less effective in bad weather can cause trouble. Your backup camera might ice over, the sensors may not work in heavy snow conditions. That’s why it’s important to practice driving techniques as if the sensors weren’t there on a daily basis, and use the warnings and convenience as a backup to your own skills, rather than relying on them completely.


In the end, the holidays require a bit of extra care to keep everyone around us safe. Driving in poor conditions can be stressful, but practicing some extra discipline will keep everyone safe.


If you’re a small business owner, remember that it’s not just you that needs to stay safe over the holidays. Keep in mind your business needs when it comes to winter weather to keep everything running smoothly this holiday season.


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